Santiago Vergini is expected on Wearside today to sign for Sunderland.
Reports in Argentina suggests agreement has been reached with Estudiantes, and the centre-back will be on Wearside today, 24 hours later than the Black Cats had planned.
Sunderland are thought to have agreed an initial loan for the 25-year-old, and a four-year contract if the arrangement becomes permanent at the end of the season.
Even though optimism is growing on Wearside after one defeat in nine matches, making permanent signings before the club’s Premier League status for next season has been confirmed is risky, so Sunderland have guarded against it.
The initial loan fee is thought to be £500,000, with half as much again due in June to keep the player.
Like Marcos Alonso, who has joined on loan from Fiorentina, Vergini’s signing has the fingerprints of coach Gustavo Poyet, rather than director of football Roberto de Fanti, all over it. De Fanti was largely responsible for the influx of 14 new players last summer, many of whom are yet to make any real impact.
Argentina international Vergini is a central defender, the position where Sunderland are arguably better served than any other. But beneath the first-choice pairing of former Manchester United players John O’Shea and Wes Brown, there is little by way of cover, with Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite yet to convince in the Premier League.
Brown has a wretched career injury record, and quality cover is therefore needed. Poyet went to the lengths of fielding midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng and right-back Phil Bardsley at centre-back against Carlisle United in the FA Cup, for a game O’Shea and Brown missed through injury and suspension respectively.
The prospects of Vergini getting a game are helped by the fact he can play at right-back. He made 14 appearances there for Newells Old Boys in 2012, before establishing himself in the centre of defence. Poyet said of the 6ft 3in defender, whom he first watched as manager of Brighton and Hove Albion: “The way he plays, understands football and his physical size made me think of him as a potential signing.”
The Uruguayan had hoped to bring Vergini to the south coast last summer, only to lose his job there in controversial circumstances.
Vergini is one of three Argentinians Sunderland hope to sign this month, with Internacional attacker Ignacio Scocco and goalkeeper Mariano Andujar.
Meanwhile, Sunderland sources claim Swansea City chairman Hugh Jenkins is mistaken in claiming Ki can be recalled from his season-long loan at any point until the end of this month.
Jenkins has disputed Poyet’s claim that the cut-off point for the South Korean to return to south Wales was last week.
The Swans currently have nine players injured, as many as any side in the Premier League, but manager Michael Laudrup has anyway been quoted as saying that a recall would not be in anyone’s interests.
Ki (pictured below) has been the best of de Fanti’s summer signings and Poyet said last week he was looking to make the arrangement permanent this week. Ki’s response to scoring at Fulham on Saturday suggested he was keen on the idea too.
The Black Cats’ League Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United will be televised live at the Stadium of Light after the club sold out their entire allocation of 9,000 tickets for the game. Sunderland lead 2-1 from the first leg, and avoiding defeat at Old Trafford a week today would see them reach a Wembley final for the first time since the 1992 FA Cup final.