Bruce plays a waiting game

25 January 2011 11:19
SUNDERLAND continue to play a game of transfer brinkmanship as their search for new signings threatens to go all the way to next Monday's deadline.

A loan deal for Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari should be completed before the end of the week, but agreements for a range of other targets remain elusive.

Sunderland officials have held talks with Paris St Germain, Stoke City and Wigan Athletic about Stephane Sessegnon, Ricardo Fuller and Charles N'Zogbia respectively, but no deal has been agreed.

And while the likes of Frederic Piquionne and Jay Bothroyd have also been sounded out as potential replacements for Darren Bent, Black Cats boss Steve Bruce is prepared to play a waiting game rather than pay an inflated fee or wage agreement in order to plug a short-term gap.

Of all the ongoing targets, Muntari is the closest to agreeing a move to Wearside, with Bruce hoping to tie up a loan deal that will see the Ghana international move to England for the remainder of the season.

Having accepted a need to leave the San Siro this month, Muntari has been keeping his options open, but a series of conversations with compatriots Asamoah Gyan and John Mensah have convinced him of the merits of a move to the Stadium of Light.

Spanish side Sevilla have emerged as late rivals for Muntari's signature, but Bruce is hoping to finalise the precise arrangements of a loan deal later today.

He is also in regular contact with Paris St Germain officials over Sessegnon, although Everton's interest in the midfielder is threatening to complicate his proposed move to Wearside.

Everton are looking to recruit a replacement for Steven Pienaar, who joined Tottenham last week, but Sunderland officials remain hopeful of winning the race for the 26-year-old.

Neither Sessegnon nor Muntari would be a direct replacement for Bent, but despite having cast his net far and wide last week, Bruce is not really any closer to recruiting a new centre-forward.

He is close to agreeing a fee of around £3m with Stoke for Fuller, but the striker's anticipated wage demands of around £60,000-a-week are likely to present a new obstacle to be overcome.

Sunderland see Fuller as an answer to a short-term problem, and are not willing to offer a long-term deal on wages that would see the 31-year-old become one of the club's highest-paid players.

"Everyone knows what Ric has done for the club (Stoke)," said former Sunderland midfielder Rory Delap. "But I don't know what will happen. Ric is a great player, but it is down to him and the club. But if it were up to me, he would be staying."

Bothroyd is an alternative option, but with Cardiff refusing to lower their £4m valuation of the England international, a deal is still some way off.

The same is true of an agreement over N'Zogbia, despite a number of discussions between Sunderland officials and their counterparts at the DW Stadium.

Liverpool have also lodged a formal inquiry about the former Newcastle winger, but Wigan boss Roberto Martinez insists he is under no pressure to sell one of his club's leading assets. As a result, N'Zogbia is expected to be involved when Wigan host Aston Villa in the Premier League tonight.

"We are not here to find business," said Martinez. "We don't need to sell players to balance our books, and that's always our position. We are not talking to any clubs, so it's not as if there are negotiations that you hope break down."

Source: Northern_Echo