SUNDERLAND are closing in on Egyptian right-back Ahmad Al-Muhammadi after agreeing a £500,000 loan fee with his club ENPPI.
The Black Cats had the offer accepted last night and look set to seal the season-long loan by the end of the week – beating off competition from Premier League newcomers West Bromwich Albion, who made a late attempt to scupper the deal.
Reports in Egypt have suggested that the deal that was originally mooted as a permanent £2m transfer but that ENPPI backed down after Sunderland offered to pay in instalments.
They are now banking on the 22-year-old enjoying a successful first term in England and persuading Sunderland to pay the amount in full next summer. ENPPI were claiming they had negotiated a 15% sell-on clause in any future deal.
When the Black Cats confirm the deal it will be another boost for their summer recruitment drive, which has seen them bag one of the best emerging midfielders at the World Cup in Paraguay star Cristian Riveros and beat
strong competition from PSV Eindhoven to take goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
In Al-Muhammadi’s case they appear to have gazumped West Brom despite their willingness to pay slightly more for the player.
In the event the ‘David Beckham of Egyptian football’ always fancied Wearside over the Black Country and that has led to ENPPI doing a deal with Steve Bruce’s side.
Al-Muhammadi, who caught the eye playing for the African champions against England earlier this season, was on trial at Sunderland last season and was said to be impressed by what he saw at the Stadium of Light.
Meanwhile, Nigeria striker John Utaka is hoping that he will be back in the Premier League with Sunderland next season – although that looks a long shot at this stage.
The 28-year-old is available as part of the Portsmouth fire sale and has been linked with former club Rennes but was quoted in a Nigerian newspaper as saying Sunderland would be a dream move for him.
Utaka’s camp have been quick to encourage the link but Bruce’s priority is securing another centre-back, while also looking for cover at left-back. He is keen to have a fourth senior striker but will assess the claims of Martyn Waghorn before jumping in.
Utaka’s age and wage demands – he is paid in excess of £25,000 a week by Portsmouth – make him an unlikely back-up candidate and his goalscoring record in the Premier League is not particularly noteworthy.
Bruce might be tempted to broker a loan deal for the player if Waghorn fails to perform in pre-season but in all likelihood Sunderland’s sights are set higher than a player who was an unused substitute in all three of Nigeria’s World Cup group games.
“As a player I love challenges, and it will be nice to don the colours of Sunderland in the Premiership,” Utaka had said.
“I have heard about the move from Sunderland, but it’s speculation to me. But I pray something tangible happens before the end of this week.”