SUNDERLAND will attempt to push through the signing of Wolfsburg striker Patrick Helmes in the last 48 hours of transfer activity for 2011.
With the window closing at 11pm tomorrow, the Black Cats still have a number of irons in the fire.
Manager Steve Bruce is still hoping to sign two strikers and a left-winger, but German international Helmes has emerged as his priority.
Wolfsburg paved the way by signing Rasmus Jonsson as a replacement for Helmes, who was himself a replacement for Edin Dzeko.
Bruce would have loved to bring Peter Crouch from Tottenham Hotspur but, having failed to pull a deal off last summer, history seems certain to repeat itself.
Crouch and his wife, model Abbey Clancy, were lukewarm about joining Sunderland 12 months ago and the Black Cats are privately resigned to the England international signing for Stoke City, who have also targeted his club-mate at white Hart Lane, Wilson Palacios.
Bruce started the new season content with a stable of strikers which consisted of Asamoah Gyan, Stéphane Sessègnon, Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won.
All but Gyan have been signed in 2011. The Ghanaian came last August for a club record fee of £13m.
However, a start to the season which has seen Sunderland score just once in four games – midfielder Sebastian Larsson netting at Liverpool on the opening day – has prompted an urgent rethink by the Wearsiders.
Bruce is now looking to bring in two forward reinforcements, one on loan.
“We need a bit extra up front,” he admitted after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Premier League newcomers Swansea City.
“If we are honest, we have been lacking a bit in that department since Darren Bent left in January and we know that.”
Craig Bellamy is the ideal candidate for a short-term move as the Welshman can also play wide on the left, an area where Sunderland are without a specialist after failing to land Charles N’Zogbia from Wigan Athletic.
The former Newcastle United man’s wages – thought to be in the region of £90,000 a week – are prohibitive, so any deal would be reliant on Manchester City heavily subsidising his pay packet.
As the world’s richest club, the Eastlands outfit are in a position to do so, as they did with Emmanuel Adebayor’s move to Tottenham.
However, Liverpool, Stoke City and Celtic are also interested, making for complicated negotiations.
It was at local club Köln the pacey Helmes made his Bundesliga debut, scoring in his second appearance.
He was made captain of the Billy Goats, even after making clear he would join Bayer Leverkusen for the 2007–08 season.
Helmeswas named the second division’s best striker, ahead of players such as Oliver Neuville and Demba Ba, the latter now at Newcastle United.
Twenty-eight goals in 58 Leverkusen appearances either side of cruciate knee ligament damage earned him a £7m move to Wolfsburg as one of the strikers brought in following Dzeko’s sale to Manchester City.
The 27-year-old has scored three goals in 11 games for Felix Magath’s side.
They seem to have paved the way for Helmes’ departure by signing Swedish Under-21 international Jonsson from Helsingborg for an undisclosed fee.
Helmes earned the first of 13 German caps in 2007. He was named in Joachim Löw’s provisional 26-man Euro 2008 squad, but did not make the cut. The first of his two international goals came in a 2-1 friendly win over England in November 2008.
Reports in France suggest Steed Malbranque is considering retiring from football just weeks after leaving Sunderland.
The mercurial midfielder joined St Etienne on a two-year contract before the start of the season.
The 31-year-old has made one appearance for his new club, but was left out of Saturday’s trip to Sochaux because he was “not in the right frame of mind”.
An announcement is expected this week, with rumours the Belgian-born French international will hang up his boots.