Sunderland have carried out another scouting check on Hearts defender Jordan McGhee – while also taking a closer look at Romania winger Dorin Rotariu.
The Black Cats have taken an active interest in the Scottish market in recent months and tried to negotiate a deal for Dundee United starlet John Souttar before he rejected the switch. They also made informal enquiries about Ryan Gauld before he completed his moved to Sporting Lisbon.
They have an interest in McGhee, the teenage centre-back who prospered amid the turmoil at Hearts, and had a scouting presence in Wigan this weekend to see the Edinburgh outfit taking on Dinamo Bucharest.
The bad-tempered friendly was a chance for Sunderland to look at 18-year-old wonderkid Rotariu, who has been linked with the Black Cats before. But the Journal understands that another reason for Wearside presence in the North West was McGhee, who is one of the names in the frame as Sunderland look to invest in a back four that they know needs work.
Sunderland had hoped to bring in Ashley Williams and a younger star but with the Swansea defender committing to the Liberty Stadium they are back at square one. That has not tempered their enthusiasm for bringing in a young centre-back who could learn at the feet of John O’Shea and Wes Brown – who are likely to start the season as the Black Cats’ first-choice pairing.
Sunderland also like Nottingham Forest’s Jamaal Lascelles, but McGhee – who is one of a clutch of Scottish youngsters attracting interest – may be a cheaper option.
The squad were back for pre-season yesterday and Gus Poyet has warned them to expect a tough summer as the club look to leap into next season.
The Black Cats boss said: “People and players need to realise that pre-season is hard and you need to suffer a little bit. The more you suffer, the less you will suffer during the season.
“It’s really important and maybe the mental side is the most important one. If you get through pre-season in the right way, you will be ready.”
Sunderland hope to make progress on a deal for Marcos Alonso this week but any swap deal that involves Modibo Diakite has been all but ruled out.
Ulisse Savini said last week that Sunderland are looking to recoup more of their investment.
“The Viola want to bring Diakitè back to Florence but Sunderland – who has made a major investment in Modibo – wants to recover what they invested,” he said.
“It was an idea that we had put up (the potential swap deal), but I think Alonso has many requests from the Premier so I see it as a difficult task. Diakite and Alonso are two different tracks at the moment.”