SUNDERLAND have been given the green light to bid for Steven N'Zonzi after he handed in a transfer request at Blackburn Rovers.
The 23-year-old Frenchman is understood to be one of a number of players under consideration by Stadium of Light boss Martin O’Neill, who wants to add to his Black Cats squad for the new Premier League season.
The 6ft 4½in defensive midfielder is available for £5million and The Journal understands he would be open to moving to Wearside if Sunderland decide to make a move.
Blackburn boss Steve Kean confirmed yesterday that N’Zonzi will be allowed to leave after holding a series of meetings with Rovers management before they jetted out to Austria for pre-season.
“He’s asked for a transfer, hence why he never went to Austria,” Kean said.
“He doesn’t want to play for the club any longer. I had two meetings with his father and he wants to play elsewhere. We’ll be listening to offers but, as it stands, he remains under contract and we haven’t had any offers.”
O’Neill does not anticipate any incoming transfer business to be concluded while his squad are playing in the Peace Cup in South Korea, a campaign that kicks off with a game against Seongnam this morning.
Although there is £500,000 prize money at stake for the winners Sunderland know that it will be a tough fixture. Seongnam are in the middle of their season and the conditions are hot and humid in Asia, where the Black Cats only arrived on Tuesday.
O’Neill is likely to use most of his squad and will hand Connor Wickham an early chance to impress in pre-season, the striker having targeting this summer as a chance to show that he belongs in O’Neill’s plans.
Titus Bramble may miss out though, having revealed on Twitter that he suffered a facial injury after clashing with young reserve goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in a training session.
Still, it will be useful for Sunderland to get started after a long summer break – even if it is a long way from home. Some teams who have journeyed east for pre-season have lived to regret it, but O’Neill can see the benefits of a long-haul tour so early in the close season.
“It is early so we’ll be fine,” O’Neill said. “You could say from one perspective that we haven’t had that long to prepare for the games – we’ve only had one or two days of training before we go.
“Obviously I think the Korean side we are playing in the opening game will be fitter than we will be. Still, it’s there for us and I know when I was involved in the Peace Cup when it was held in southern Spain the competition worked out really well for us (Aston Villa).
“We won it and we got plenty of playing time as well, which was encouraging. It is just the distances you have to travel but it’s there and we will go over there to enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, Black Cats defender Michael Liddle has left the club to join Accrington Stanley on a permanent basis. The 22-year-old left-back made 12 appearances for the League Two side on loan last season.
The Irishman, a graduate of the Black Cats’ youth system, made one senior appearance, in the FA Cup third round tie against Barrow in January 2010.
He also had loan spells at Carlisle, Leyton Orient and Gateshead during his time at the Stadium of Light.