SUNDERLAND are confident the answer will be “yes” when they hear back from transfer target Sebastian Larsson next month.
The Black Cats are one of a number of clubs hoping to sign the out-of-contract winger this summer and while the Swede is delaying a decision for another week or two, hopes are high at the Stadium of Light that it will be the one they are hoping for.
Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and Atlético Madrid are all thought to have offered the 25-year-old a contract for next season. But Larsson’s current campaign still has two matches to run. He is part of the Sweden squad due to take on Moldova on Friday and Finland on Tuesday in European Championship qualifiers. Agent Per Jonsson has promised a decision shortly thereafter.
Then-Birmingham City boss Bruce signed Larsson from Arsenal, initially on loan, and Sunderland are hopeful the relationship he and assistant Eric Black built up with the right-winger over three seasons can pay dividends.
The Black Cats have lacked genuine wide players under Bruce, a weakness he is looking to put right this summer. Charles N’Zogbia is Bruce’s preferred target on the left, although he fears that missing out on the Wigan
Athletic man now that Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have apparently started to show an interest.
Former Middlesbrough player and Sunderland loanee Stewart Downing was seen an alternative in January, but again the chances of landing him seem to be receding.
Most of Sunderland’s best performances from the right flank in the season just gone came from Jordan Henderson, a central midfielder by trade. Larsson is also a set-piece specialist, an area of their game which has been sadly lacking.
Having decided he needs an overhaul where months ago only fine-tuning was planned, Bruce is looking to eke as much as possible out of his transfer budget. His early-summer focus is on out-of-contract players, such as goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and striker Jay Bothroyd.
Later he will turn his attention to other targets, such as N’Zogbia and former Newcastle front man Craig Bellamy, likely to be made available by Manchester City.
It initially appeared Larsson would be made available by Birmingham in January, but Blues changed their mind, much to his frustration. Nevertheless, he appeared to put it behind him, scoring three goals after the transfer window closed, including one in April’s 2-0 win at home to Sunderland, to give his team a fighting chance of avoiding relegation.
“After those (international) games, we will be sorting out his future pretty quickly,” his agent Jonsson revealed.
“By the first or second week in June, everything should be sorted out. There have been four clubs from the Premier League who have made approaches.
“There is no problem finding a club in this case. The problem is sorting out which club it is.”
Of Larsson’s relationship with Bruce, he added: “Steve was the manager at Birmingham before and took him to Birmingham and he made his breakthrough under him there. You can see they have a good relationship from that.”
Meanwhile, the Black Cats have announced a three-match pre-season tour of Germany.
The opening match comes against Arminia Bielefeld, recently relegated to the third division, on Sunday, July 17, kicking off at 3pm local time.
Three days later they face Europa League-bound Hanover 96. Their squad includes former Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz and Finish striker Mikael Forssell, another signed by Bruce at Birmingham. The game kicks off at 7pm local time.
The tour ends at the 54,000-capacity Borussia-Park on Saturday, July 23.
Their hosts, Borussia Mönchengladbach, retained their Bundesliga place by winning a two-leg play-off against second-tier VfL Bochum.
Tickets for the Bielefeld and Hanover matches are available from the host clubs however, no details have yet been announced for the Mönchengladbach fixture.
Sunderland visited Germany for the last game of the 2010 pre-season, losing 3-1 to Hoffenheim.