Asamoah Gyan's permanent departure from Sunderland looks more likely after Al Ain chief executive Carlo Nohra claimed he was "very confident" of signing the striker on a new deal.
Gyan has helped the United Arab Emirates club to the Pro League title after joining on loan from the Black Cats for a fee of £6million in September last year. The Ghana striker has been a key part of that success after netting 22 goals in all competitions and is reportedly keen to remain in the Middle East.
Nohra claimed in March that the club had first option to buy Gyan outright and despite outside interest believes a deal will be struck with Sunderland this summer. He told Sport360: "I'm very confident that he will be staying. He has indicated on a number of occasions that he would like to remain at the club."
He continued: "There is a loan agreement that we need to work out with Sunderland, but what is really important is that the player wants to be here and we would like to keep him. So now it's about working out the logistics of a transfer.
"That doesn't mean it's going to happen, but the seeds are there for us to ensure that this becomes a long-term deal."
After paying the initial Â£6million to acquire Gyan's services, reports have hinted Al-Ain can pay a further Â£3million for a permanent deal. The 26-year-old will have two years of the contract he signed when he joined from Rennes in 2010 remaining at the end the current season, and his future could have a major bearing on manager Martin O'Neill's transfer plans.
Gyan arrived on Wearside on the back of a series of impressive displays for his country at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa as then manager Steve Bruce invested a club record £13.1million on him.
It took Gyan time to get used to the Barclays Premier League, but he announced his arrival in earnest with his first goal for the club at Wigan on September 11. He managed 11 goals last season as he, Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck vied for places before Bent's January departure for Aston Villa, and also scored for Ghana in a friendly against England.
Gyan was linked with a summer move to Tottenham as Bruce renewed his interest in former target Peter Crouch and despite the manager's repeated insistence that the African was going nowhere, the noises coming out of the player's camp were not encouraging.
It nevertheless came as something of a shock when, hours before the club's home clash with Chelsea on September 10, they announced that Gyan had joined Al Ain on loan.