RELEGATED Wolves have slapped a £10m transfer fee on the head of their top scorer Steven Fletcher - but that inflated asking price won't scare off Sunderland.
The Journal understands Martin O’Neill sees the 26-year-old as the man who can cure his side’s obvious goalscoring problems next season, and is willing to spend a large part of his summer transfer budget on the player.
Despite Wolves going down at the weekend, they are still in a position to demand such a fee for their most highly-rated player.
That’s because a number of clubs both in England and abroad have expressed an interest in a player who was the Black Country outfit’s top scorer for the past two seasons.
Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey admitted yesterday that he expected to lose Fletcher and some others in the close season, after Sunday’s home defeat by Manchester City condemned the club to a relegation that had been on the cards for several months.
The Molineux outfit would expect to at least get back the £6.5m they paid Burnley for the former Hibs player two years ago – however, with so many clubs on the trail of the player who has scored ten Premier League goals this season, they are confident of making a sizeable profit.
O’Neill will not have fortunes to spend and his team’s recent slide down the league will not have helped his summer budget, because every position is worth £750,000.
But with Asamoah Gyan, Ahmed Elmohamady and Cristian Riveros certain to leave Sunderland in the summer, who will all command a fee, the manager will have money to spend and at least one established Premier League striker is a priority. It was hoped that Wolves would be in a weak position when it came to Fletcher as he will be desperate to leave and the club will need the cash as the face up to life out of the top tier.
But Moxey said: “I think there will be interest in some of our players, but we are in a very good financial position. We have got players under long-term contracts; we are under no pressure to sell.
“But let’s get the season finished, get a manager in place, get that sorted out and then address the reshaping of our team that is required. It is an opportunity to try to get stronger.”
Fletcher has scored 34 times in the Premier League from 99 appearances with Burnley for a season and Wolves for two years, which is an impressive effort considering both those sides were fighting near the bottom of the top-flight table.
The English-born naturalised Scot could be selected for Team GB’s football team at the London Olympics in the summer. Fletcher refused to play for Scotland after a fall-out with national team manager Craig Levein, although he has made noises recently that he would like a recall.
Fletcher (pictured below) has scored against Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United in what has been a desperate season for Wolves, which has impressed his would-be suitors.
And Sunderland supporters will remember his two goals in Wolves’ 2-1 win over the the Wearsiders on December 4, with just-appointed manager O’Neill watching from the stand.
Sunderland have drawn their last three games 0-0 and have gone six hours without scoring a goal, a record they will be desperate to improve for Saturday’s home match with Bolton Wanderers.
Midfielder Jack Colback, his side’s best performer at Villa Park last Saturday, admitted he feels as frustrated as the supporters.
Speaking on the club’s official website, Colback said: “Before this goalless run that we seem to be on, the team were scoring goals for fun; three at Manchester City, three against QPR – but they just seem to have dried up a little bit.
“We need to start winning games again and finish the season as strongly as we can.”