SUNDERLAND are determined to land a central midfielder before the transfer window closes but it will be either Liam Bridcutt or Ever Banega – but not both.
And the recalled Connor Wickham could play a part in the deal to land head coach Gus Poyet’s top choice in Bridcutt.
Poyet has already added three new players to his squad this January – on loan Fiorentina full-back Marcos Alonso, and Argentinian pair, goalkeeper Oscar Ustari and centre-half Santiago Vergini.
Now he is closing in on a fourth – another Argentinian, Internacional’s versatile attacker Ignacio Scocco in what is believed to a £4m deal (see page 39).
And he plans more arrivals before the window closes with Bridcutt and Banega firmly on his radar.
But the Black Cats’ boss is looking to strengthen with just one central midfielder before the transfer window closes on Friday night.
Poyet has worked closely with Scottish midfielder Bridcutt in his time as Brighton boss and he believes the 24-year-old would fit perfectly into the style of play he wants to develop at Sunderland.
A firm bid, in excess of £2m has been made, with the player himself handing in a transfer request to underline his desire to join the Black Cats.
Brighton have not been involving Bridcutt in games while his future is an issue but have rejected an offer which Sunderland say will not be increased.
The Wearsiders are determined not to be held to ransom and have opened up inquiries on another front, over Valencia midfielder Banega.
The Argentine has two dozen international caps under his belt and the 25-year-old would not come cheap. But he suffered several injuries while at the Spanish club and they may be tempted to cash in on a player they paid Boca Juniors 20m euros for five-and-a-half years ago.
The Argentine has been watched by a number of Premier League clubs but Sunderland are prepared to up their interest if no progress is made on Bridcutt.
Brighton are determined to get more than the money offered so far from Sunderland – pointing out that Poyet himself described Bridcutt as “a £5m player” during his time at the Amex Stadium.
Connor Wickham – recalled from his loan at Sheffield Wednesday yesterday, two days before it was due to end – could become a makeweight in a deal to land Bridcutt, though.
The young striker may go out on loan to the South Coast club, as part of a deal to bring Bridcutt to Wearside.
Brighton are on the lookout for a striker to reinforce their options up front as they look to maintain a push for the Championship play-offs.
And with the Bridcutt situation a difficult one for the Seagulls, they might be tempted to take Sunderland’s offer for the midfielder if it means getting a proven Championship finisher in Wickham for the rest of the season.