Sunderland are determined not to let Connor Wickham run down his contract – and will either press him to sign an extension or reluctantly make him available this summer.
The Black Cats’ summer planning was complicated by the contract situations of Phil Bardsley, Jack Colback and Seb Larsson, who all came to the end of their deals in the close season, and sporting director Lee Congerton is determined not to allow a repeat next year.
They have opened negotiations with the striker on a possible new deal and would like him to continue where he left off at the end of last season, when he emerged as an unlikely relegation saviour with a flurry of vital goals against Chelsea and Manchester City.
However, if he resists their overtures Sunderland are prepared to sell him – with Crystal Palace among the suitors for a striker who has been a regular on the England under-21 scene.
Sunderland would at least be spared the situation which unfolded with Colback, where they lost the 24-year-old to Newcastle for nothing.
Wickham will still be under 24 next summer and so the Black Cats would be entitled to compensation – but there are no guarantees they would recoup anything close to the eight-figure price they paid for him.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s top summer target Fabio Borini is likely to stay at Liverpool next season – according to his agent Marco De Marchi.
The Black Cats are prepared to launch a £9.5m bid for the Italy striker, but the forward wants to find out what his chances of first-team football are under Brendan Rodgers.
De Marchi said: “Fabio has gone back to Liverpool to stay as stated by the manager.
“So far, Liverpool have not received any communication regarding his transfer.
I would not be surprised if there were other clubs who want him because I consider him a complete striker.
“For the moment, all I can say with certainty is Fabio has returned to Liverpool to stay.”
Meanwhile, Emanuele Giaccherini insists his Italy chances have not been hindered by playing for Sunderland.