Sunderland will be forced to look elsewhere for leadership after Ashley Williams snub

Sunderland want a statement signing and will now turn their attentions to Kurt Zouma of Chelsea to plug centre-back gap

Ashley Williams of Swansea
Ashley Williams of Swansea

Sunderland will have to look elsewhere in their hunt for a ‘statement signing’ with leadership qualities after Ashley Williams penned an improved contract to stay at Swansea City.

The Black Cats had been given indications all summer the defender was keen to move to Wearside.

However, the mood music around the move had changed in recent days and it was no surprise he signed a long-term contract to stay in South Wales.

The Swans had rejected an offer from Sunderland in a bid to hold further talks with their skipper, who has committed to the club for the next four years.

Williams said after penning the new deal: “I respect this club and everyone associated with it and I love it here.

“I’ve been here for six years, so it’s home for me.

“I hope to finish my career here – I’ve had that viewpoint for a long time.

“I am very happy here and I’ve enjoyed a lot of success at Swansea. I’m delighted to sign this new contract.”

Williams’ decision will put more pressure on sporting director Lee Congerton to utilise his contacts to negotiate a loan move for Kurt Zouma, the Chelsea centre-back.

However, even that move would not plug the leadership gap Congerton and boss Gus Poyet had identified in the Sunderland squad.

Williams had been viewed as the sort of capture who would energise the squad and persuade other targets the Wearsiders had turned a corner after last season’s struggle with the drop.

They will now have to turn to other targets, although a move for Fabio Borini is still a possibility despite claims Liverpool do not want to part with their striker.

Sunderland’s squad building is still in its infancy despite moves for Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones and Costel Pantillimon.

They have a number of players to remove from their books before the end of the summer, including Danny Graham – who is wanted by Middlesbrough – and also Alfred N’Diaye, who has no future at Sunderland despite an encouraging loan spell with Real Betis last term.

Betis’ sporting director Alexis Trujillo said: “N’Diaye had great features and we are not ruling anything out.

“Everything could happen and if N’Diaye is alive he has an option to go to Betis.”

Boro boss Aitor Karanka said Sunderland flop Graham remains “in his thoughts” as he looks for a striker, although he is not a priority target for the Riverside outfit.

Karanka said: “He is always in my mind but I would prefer to look for other players.

“I haven’t forgotten about Danny. I don’t know what his situation is at Sunderland but if we don’t take other options and Danny wants to join us I know him and he would be good for us..”

The Black Cats have made him available for a cut-price £1m fee and he may yet be allowed to leave on loan if they do not get any takers for him.

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