Lee Cattermole will be allowed to leave Sunderland on loan if the Black Cats cannot find a buyer this summer.
Cattermole is working his way towards full fitness after undergoing a knee ligament operation in March, and was left on Wearside to continue his rehabilitation work as the remainder of the squad travelled to Italy for a pre-season training camp and then on to Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy.
But new Black Cats head coach Paolo Di Canio has already decided the midfielder does not figure in his future plans, and is ready to let the former Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic man leave.
Ideally, Sunderland would prefer to sell Cattermole in order to generate funds for team strengthening, but would be prepared to consider a loan deal in order to at least get him off the wage bill.
The 25-year-old only signed a new contract at Sunderland in October, and his impending departure is another sign that Di Canio is not afraid to make radical changes to the squad he inherited when he took over in March.
He has already brought in nine new players this summer – with at least two more expected to arrive before the season kicks-off on August 17 – and has sanctioned the sales of Simon Mignolet, Ahmed Elmohamady and Danny Graham, as well as allowing Alfred N’Diaye to leave on a season-long loan.
More departures are also expected, with out-of-favour defender Phil Bardsley and misfit frontman Ji Dong-Won also likely to leave.
Fulham are favourites to sign Bardsley, while Ji is set to move to Germany after spending a successful loan spell in the Bundesliga with Augsburg last season.
But one player who is set to stay is Stephane Sessegnon, who has given Di Canio a boost by insisting he has no intention of leaving Wearside.
Speculation has surrounded the future of Sunderland’s Benin international forward, with a number of clubs in France understood to be taking a close interest in his situation. But Di Canio has been impressed by Sessegnon’s effort and application during Sunderland’s gruelling pre-season programme, and he singled the former Paris St-Germain star out for praise following his performances in the Barclays Asia Trophy.
And Sessegnon has now confirmed that he is happy at Sunderland, and is fully-focused on producing his best form for the Black Cats.
“The speculation is okay, I have no problem with that. But I’m happy at Sunderland,” said the 29-year-old.
“We have worked well in pre-season and hopefully we can continue like this. I’m enjoying it at Sunderland and my mind is for Sunderland now. It’s a very important time, you need to have a pre-season. You need to do the hard work to start the season well.”
Sessegnon was the subject of similar speculation last summer, with then-boss Martin O’Neill admitting the transfer talk had turned the player’s head and contributing to his poor early-season form.
But no move materialised for Sessegnon, and instead he signed a new contract with the Black Cats at the end of August.
“I think that affected me during the first few months of last season, but this year is different because we have had a good pre-season with a lot of good players coming,” said Sessegnon, who ended last season as the club’s second top scorer with seven goals.
“That’s made everyone work hard in training and we have got a strong mentality too among the players. It looks good already for the start of the season.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland have confirmed their final pre-season friendly will take place in Denmark next week.
The Black Cats will play Danish Superliga leaders FC Midtjylland at the MCH Arena in Herning on Wednesday, August 7 (kick-off 6pm, local time).
The game in Scandinavia will be Sunderland’s fifth pre-season fixture.