Sevilla are weighing up a summer move for Sunderland midfielder Alfred N’Diaye.
The Senegal international midfielder has been deemed surplus to requirements on Wearside and has expressed a desire to move to Spain after spending the second half of last season on loan at Sevilla’s city-rivals Real Betis.
N’Diaye was unable to save Betis from relegation but impressed the club’s hierarchy enough for them to show interest in taking the 24-year-old on a permananent basis.
However, N’Diaye has dashed their hopes by insisting he wants to stay in the Spanish top flight.
That has alerted Sevilla, who are looking to strengthen their midfield in the summer.
They took QPR midfielder Stephane Mbia on loan at the start of last season but the Cameroon international has struggled with a knee problem which could scupper a permanent move, with N’Diaye a possible alternative.
Martin O’Neill brought N’Diaye to Sunderland from Turkish side Bursaspor in January 2013 for £3.8m, but he was discarded by O’Neill’s successor Paolo Di Canio last summer and allowed to return to Turkey on loan with Eskisehirspor.
That loan was originally due to last for the entire season, but in the January transfer window Sunderland and Eskisehirspor agreed to allow N’Diaye to spend the remainder of the campaign with Betis.
The loan deal with Betis contained an option to buy N’Diaye for £3.4m, and it is likely Sunderland would seek a similar fee for the player if, as expected, he moves on during the close season.
Meanwhile, Sunderland are keen to begin talks with England under-21 striker Connor Wickham over a new contract following his heroics in the final month of the season just finished.
Wickham is about to enter the final 12 months of his contract on Wearside and, while his age means he would not be entitled to leave for nothing under the Bosman ruling next summer, the Black Cats would only be due compensation for the 21-year-old, which would fall well short of the £8m they paid Ipswich Town for his services in 2011.
Wickham has been a peripheral figure for much of his three-year stay at Sunderland, but he came to the Black Cats’ rescue in April when Gus Poyet recalled him from a loan spell at Championship side Leeds United.
Poyet gave the 20-year-old a run in the starting line-up and the frontman repaid his manager’s faith by inspiring Sunderland’s remarkable march to safety by scoring five goals in the last seven games of the season.
That goalscoring form – which included two goals against Manchester City and one against Chelsea – has proved he has now matured into the Premier League striker Sunderland believed they had bought when they paid such a high fee for a player who was then just 17.
Sunderland are ready to reward him with a new contract which reflects his status as an important part of Poyet’s future plans at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland's development side lost out to eventual champions Manchester City in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens over the weekend.
In the group stage on Saturday, Kevin Ball’s team beat an HKFC Captain’s Select side 2-0 and drew 1-1 with Chelsea and fought out a goalless stalemate against local side Kitchee.
Then yesterday they beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the quarter-final before losing out to City 3-2 after extra-time in the semi-final.
City went on to beat Kitchee 2-1 in the decider.