SUNDERLAND are trying to push through a deal for highly-rated striker Connor Wickham while rival suitors Liverpool are distracted by other business.
The England Under-21 international was watched many times by the Reds’ director of football Daniel Comolli last season, and his reports were glowing.
But with the Anfield club prioritising deals for Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam and a new left-back, they cannot afford to jeopardise those moves by diverting funds elsewhere, and will have to sell before they can rival Sunderland’s latest offer for Wickham.
In the meantime, the Black Cats have had a bid for Wickham accepted by Ipswich Town. It is not the £13m widely reported, but just over £8m, but the player could be set to undergo a medical on Wearside as early as today.
At the start of the summer they were not particularly optimistic of landing a player whose talents had attracted the attention of a number of top clubs, but have taken heart from their failure to translate it into firm bids. The Black Cats tested the water with a bid last week, and have now met the Tractor Boys’ asking price.
With Ji Dong-Won close to agreeing a move from Chunnam Dragons, Sunderland will have recovered from a slow start in this summer’s transfer window to sign two of the three strikers which they were hoping for if the Wickham deal can be closed out.
They will also be hoping there is no news of departures from Anfield any time soon.
England’s fallen giants hope to move on Raul Meireles despite a promising first season of Premier League football from the Portugal midfielder. Ironically, Sunderland’s chances of landing boyhood Liverpool fan Wickham have been greatly enhanced by the Anfield club.
They blew the best part of £20m on midfielder Jordan Henderson, some of which Sunderland hope to redirect to Portman Road.
Since swapping one set of American owners for another, Liverpool have become the country’s big spenders in the transfer market – but their resources are not limited.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has been working on a much tighter budget this summer, which is why his two confirmed signings to date have not cost a penny. Henderson’s departure has swelled the coffers considerably.
Once source of revenue Liverpool were hoping for was from Sunderland, who are interested in their striker, David Ngog. But the Frenchman’s wage demands have helped up any deal, and the Black Cats would be wise not to show much urgency to resolve it.
Ipswich, on the other hand, are keen to get hold of a transfer fee as soon as possible, so that manager Paul Jewell can begin to reinvest it. Wickham was part of the England squad which disappointed at the European Under-21 Championships, but played second fiddle to Danny Welbeck.
Bruce still wants to make Manchester United youngster Welbeck his third new striker, but may have to wait to find out just where the Mancunian fits in the Red Devils pecking order.
The longer Dimitar Berbatov remains at Old Trafford, the better Sunderland’s chances of re-signing a player who had something of a breakthrough year in his season-long loan at the Stadium of Light. With Michael Owen surprisingly handed a contract extension and Federico Macheda publicly expressing his desire to fight for his place next term after a loan spell at Sampdoria, Welbeck may decide his best chance of adding to the solitary full England cap he won this spring lies on Wearside.
Wickham’s is not the only piece of business Sunderland are hoping to tie up soon, with Craig Gardner due on Wearside for talks tomorrow. Ji’s arrival will take slightly longer to rubber-stamp, dependent as it is on a work permit.
Gardner is a player Bruce has targeted to address his team’s lack of goals from midfield. He hit ten for Birmingham last term, and is expected to cost around £5m.