SUNDERLAND’S deadline-day priority will be boosting Gus Poyet’s defensive ranks after finalising Ricky Alvarez’s move to the Stadium of Light.
Attacking midfielder Alvarez is expected to complete his move to Sunderland today after holding discussions over a season-long loan switch from Italian giants Inter Milan at the Academy of Light yesterday, following a successful medical on Saturday night.
Alvarez, whose signing will not necessarily spell the end of Sunderland’s interest in Fabio Borini, is due to become a permanent arrival next summer if the Black Cats are still in the Premier League, and is the “surprise” addition Poyet was referring to last week.
The Argentine international was being tracked by both Atletico Madrid and Monaco, yet Sunderland look to have won the race for the 26-year-old, who cost Inter around £10million in the summer of 2011.
Once Alvarez is signed and sealed, Sunderland’s focus will turn towards central defenders, with Poyet keen to land at least one before tonight’s 11pm deadline.
Should French side Stade de Reims make an acceptable offer for Sunderland centre-half Valentin Roberge – who is thought to be keen on a move to Ligue 1 – then the Black Cats will be in the market for two defenders.
Atletico’s Toby Alderweireld, Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool’s Sebastian Coates have all been on the club’s radar, with Sunderland looking at both loan and permanent options to boost their defensive ranks.
Poyet is well aware of fellow Uruguayan Coates, who is available on loan or permanently from Liverpool, and the 23-year-old now looks to be the most probable defensive arrival on deadline day.
Coates has started just six Premier League games in three years for Liverpool, although he suffered knee ligament damage last summer which he saw him loaned back to former club Nacional, in Uruguay.
But although Sunderland still have two domestic loans at their disposal, they are only able to loan one player from each Premier League peer and Coates’ signing would rule out a move for Borini.
Alderweireld now looks to be the most unlikely, with reports last night indicating that Southampton had fought off competition from both Sunderland and Newcastle to land the 25-year-old Belgian international.
The Echo understands that Poyet had been unsure anyway over whether Alderweireld would be willing to join Sunderland and bide his time behind first-choice duo John O’Shea and Wes Brown.
Van Dijk is also an option after Poyet has been tracking him since he was Brighton boss and the defender was making his name at Dutch side Groningen.
Southampton, like Sunderland, have been scouting van Dijk over recent weeks.
But after the 23-year-old was left out of the Celtic squad yesterday for their Scottish Premiership draw with Dundee, Hoops boss Ronny Deila insisted he was remaining at Parkhead.
“He is a very good football player and he is very important for us and he’s going to stay here,” said Deila.
“He is not here because there has been a lot of speculation and his head has been thinking a lot.
“He also has a pregnant girlfriend so he was not 100 per cent focused.
“We have other players who can do a better job.”
Reports re-emerged yesterday that Sunderland were in talks with Manchester City over a loan move for England international Micah Richards.
But, while Sunderland will keep their options open in the final hours of the window, senior club sources indicated this month that Richards was not the type of defender Poyet was looking for.
Sunderland are also hopeful of offloading the remainder of those players considered surplus to requirements today. Modibo Diakite and Cabral are both close to the exit door, while striker Danny Graham is likely to depart before the deadline too.