Long-serving Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley has brought the curtain down on his Black Cats career to join Stoke City after opting for a “fresh start” this summer.
Bardsley is one of several Cats stars who is out of contract and he had been offered a new deal by the club, but The Journal understands that he has decided to move on after six years at the Stadium of Light.
Bardsley had offers from Burnley and Stoke but it is the chance to link up with Mark Hughes at the Potters which proved the most appealing. Sunderland made a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to stay, but they will now need to source a right-back as part of their recruitment drive.
Ondrej Celustka, who spent the first part of last season in the team in place of the exiled Bardsley, is a possible candidate while Sunderland are also keen to retain Santiago Vergini, the Argentina defender who performed so well at the end of the campaign at full-back.
Still, it will be a disappointment for Gustavo Poyet to lose one of the players that he came to rely on as his Sunderland side clinched their “miracle”. He has also instructed the club to try to retain Seb Larsson and Jack Colback, although the future of both players remains touch and go.
Sunderland’s squad next season could have a very different look with the future of several of their players under scrutiny.
The Black Cats have already expressed an interest in signing forward Fabio Borini following a productive season on loan from Liverpool. The Italian’s agent, Marco De Marchi, said: “I have read that people are talking about Sunderland trying to sign Borini permanently and I know for certain there is interest and not just from them,” De Marchi said.
“There have been approaches from several countries, including Italy. I have not spoken to Brendan Rodgers yet but the player is tied to Liverpool by contract for another two years and at the moment I don’t see that he could leave. Anyone who wants Borini will have to talk to Liverpool but I know he would like to continue his Premier League adventure because it’s a style of football that suits him perfectly.”
Borini is desperate to stay in England but he has been disappointed to miss out on the World Cup. “When you do everything you can and you know certain things aren’t down to you then you can rest with a clear conscience,” De Marchi added.
“I don’t know if anyone from the national team came and watched him. There are lots of great attacking options in Italy’s squad – Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile and Mattia Destro, but I don’t think there’s anyone who has the same characteristics as Fabio.”