Defensive targets still out of range for Bruce

10 July 2010 09:31
Talks held with Campbell

Injury-hit Mensah remains an option

Westermann on Bruce's radar

STEVE Bruce will prioritise the strengthening of Sunderland's defence in the next few weeks, but despite approaching Sol Campbell, Heiko Westermann and John Mensah, the Black Cats boss claims a deal for any of the players is not imminent.

Talks with Mensah's club, Lyon, have been ongoing since the end of last season, with Sunderland officials attempting to engineer a loan deal similar to the one that brought the Ghana international to the Stadium of Light last season.

Lyon, however, are looking to receive a fee of around £8m for the injury-plagued 27-yearold, a price Bruce feels is impossible to justify given the long-standing back problem that restricted Mensah to just 14 Premier League starts last season.

The Sunderland boss is similarly unhappy with Schalke's valuation of Westermann, a 26-year-old who would have been part of Germany's World Cup squad had he not suffered an injury at the end of last season.

Bruce is understood to have bid around £4m for Westermann, but Schalke are holding out for twice that figure, a valuation the Black Cats manager feels is much too high.

As a result, he has turned his attention to Campbell, and the former England international, who is currently out of contract, travelled to Wearside for talks on Thursday.

Those discussions were largely exploratory in nature, however, and the 35-year-old is yet to make a final decision over his future.

We're active in the areas I feel we need strengthening, which for me is the defence,

said Bruce.

Defence is the priority. If you look at the squad from the end of last season, Mensah and (Alan) Hutton aren't with us any more.

We are trying to make something happen on Mensah, but it is difficult.

If we could get something similar to last season agreed with Lyon, we'd take him back, but I think they want to sell him and I couldn't say to the board, with his physical problems, that it's a deal that offers value for money.

The money Lyon are quoting for him, it's too much.

Everybody who watched Sunderland last year knows we were far better when he played.

He's had a great World Cup with Ghana, but he couldn't train from what I've heard.

We're still in talks and we will look to do a deal if we can.

It's a difficult one (with Westermann) because the boy got injured just before the World Cup. But there is an interest there and we have made a bid for the player.

That hasn't come to anything at the moment.

I also had a brief chat with Sol. I've known him a long time. It was a catch up to see what his ideas were and to see what he is looking to do. It was positive stuff.

As well as looking to add players, Bruce will also spend the next seven days attempting to trim the squad that reconvened for pre-season training on Wednesday without Darren Bent, who has been given an extra week off following his post-season exertions with England.

The likes of Marton Fulop, George McCartney, Daryl Murphy, David Healy, Teemu Tainio and Nyron Nosworthy have all been deemed surplus to requirements, but it remains to be seen how many can be moved on before the transfer window closes at the end of next month.

The squad is too big, said Bruce. I've got to trim it.

Somehow, I've got to do some trading on that side of things and I think there'll be more going out than in over the next few weeks.

There are some big decisions that need to be made. If you've got a squad of 25, then we've got 31 players here and that's five or six who are frozen out.

It's the unpleasant side of the job. There are five who have to go and it's hard. But if they aren't in the squad week after week, they have nothing to aspire to.

We're waiting for everyone to finish jostling for position and then the market will move.

We've had a couple of inquiries about Marton Fulop, but nothing much is happening on that front yet.

Then again, if you'd asked me whether Lorik Cana would be out 48 hours after coming back for training, I wouldn't have believed it.

Cana's departure came as a huge surprise on Thursday afternoon, but Bruce insists he was left with no choice once the extent of the midfielder's unhappiness on Wearside became clear.

The one thing in management I've always stuck to is if a player really wants to go, I won't stand in their way,

said Bruce. It's a shame, but that's football.

We wish him the best of luck, but I don't want players here who don't really want to be and he made it pretty obvious that he wanted to play in Turkey.

Source: Northern_Echo