SUNDERLAND could turn to long-time target Paul Scharner as a stop-gap this month – but nothing more.
Martin O’Neill’s predecessor Steve Bruce managed the versatile Austrian at Wigan Athletic, and tried more than once to bring him to Sunderland.
Now it has been revealed the Black Cats have enquired about him again, this time on loan from SV Hamburg.
“Sunderland want to borrow Paul,” revealed his agent, Valentin Hobel. “HSV would agree, but Paul doesn’t want any more than that.
“Paul wants to play in Hamburg next season if he can. For this he needs match practice, which would probably be at Sunderland.
“We will look for a loan deal until end of season and then return. Let’s see if the Sunderland offer works.”
Scharner joined Hamburg from West Bromwich Albion in the summer, but ruptured his knee ligaments before his debut. To date the 32-year-old has played just four times for the Bundesliga club.
Scharner’s unwillingness to commit beyond the end of the season may not necessarily put the Black Cats off. O’Neill has said that he is prepared to gamble with short-term loans and has backed his actions up with words, signing Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Krygiakos this time last year.
Scharner can play as a midfielder or centre-back, although it is in the latter role he would probably be most useful to Sunderland. They have signed players in both positions already this month, but whereas Alfred N’Diaye has hit the ground running in midfield after a permanent switch from Bursaspor, on-loan gamble Kader Mangane has arrived lacking the match fitness for Premier League football after six months playing Saudia Arabia.
Scharner has the added advantage over Mangane that he is au fait with the English game. In keeping with Sunderland’s squad in general, they are stronger in theory at centre-back than in practice.
When – or if – Wes Brown will return from the knee problems that have dogged him for a year is unknown, and John O’Shea has had a succession of minor hamstring problems.
Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon will not be offered new contracts at the end of the season, and it would help the club’s finances if one or both is taken off the wage bill earlier.
Signing Scharner would allow that, if a taker could be found.
Lazio striker Mauro Zàrate – who had a brief spell at Birmingham City – is another they are thought to be considering taking on loan.
Sunderland’s pursuit of another striker – this time on a permanent basis – has become more complicated, after an unnamed Turkish club showed an interest in Stoke City’s Kenwyne Jones.
The Wearsiders would like their former player to join Swansea City as soon as possible so Gateshead-born Danny Graham is made available.
Graham, though, does not appear to have any part in Michael Laudrup’s long-term plans, and the Swans could turn elsewhere for a replacement.
O’Neill has at least been able to conduct his transfer business without the distraction of a game this weekend, and midfielder Craig Gardner thinks the team will be better for the rest.
“It gives us a chance to recharge our batteries because there’s been a lot of games over the Christmas period,” he argued.
“We’ve got Swansea on Tuesday and the lads will have a chance to put their feet up and rest.
“Also the lads that haven’t played it gives them a chance to get a couple of days training in and not be travelling.
“We’ll lighten things up just before the game but we can dig deep and try to carry on our form in the league.”