IF GUS Poyet has a Premier League budget at his disposal next season, then a large chunk of it will immediately be earmarked for three familiar faces.
Clamouring to sign the successful loan player is a pastime which Sunderland have made into an art over the last few years.
Unfortunately, it’s not one they’ve enjoyed much success with after Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck and Danny Rose all went on to establish themselves at their parent clubs.
But should Sunderland beat the drop – and the next two games against Crystal Palace and Norwich will give a good indication of whether that is possible – then Fabio Borini, Ki Sung-Yueng and Marcos Alonso will be at the top of Poyet’s summer shopping list.
Sunderland’s measly display against Hull, without the trio in the starting line-up, demonstrated how important they have become.
Signing Borini is a long-shot, given Sunderland are understood to be paying a fraction of his wages, Liverpool invested more than £10million in the Italian and Brendan Rodgers has repeatedly insisted that the striker will return to Anfield at the end of the season.
Having formed a genuine bond with those on the terraces though, it would be a hugely popular move if Sunderland can keep Borini.
Another season-long loan would not be out of the question.
Ki is a far more viable option with only a year remaining on his contract at Swansea, while Poyet has already publicly confirmed his intention to land the South Korean permanently if Sunderland beat the drop.
His performances for Sunderland have attracted plenty of interest from elsewhere though and Swansea would want to recoup much of the £6million they invested in the midfielder in the summer of 2012.
But ensuring Alonso remains at the Stadium of Light is just as important – if not more so – than signing either Ki or Borini.
The Spaniard was Poyet’s first signing as Sunderland boss and has lived up to that billing by holding down the left-back slot.
While he may not have made the spectacular impression of Rose, Alonso has been defensively solid, comfortable in possession and happy to comply with Poyet’s vision of the full-backs offering a key attacking dimension.
Even better, he’s a specialist left-back.
Signing the former Real Madrid youngster permanently would finally end a deficiency in Sunderland’s ranks which seems to have been as much of an annual rite of passage as season ticket renewals.
Paolo Di Canio made the right noises about rectifying the problem (although he made a lot of noises generally) and director of football Roberto De Fanti had provisionally agreed a deal with Argentine defender Lucas Orban before last season was concluded.
Orban was at the Stadium of Light for the final home game of the campaign against Southampton, only to cool on the move during the summer when he tried to engineer a heftier pay packet.
Sunderland then turned to French teenager Benjamin Mendy and agreed both a fee and personal terms, before he opted to join Marseille instead.
But after missing out on Orban and Mendy – and with Sunderland having less room to manoeuvre under the Financial Fair Play wage regulations – Di Canio decided to fudge the issue and shoe-horn midfielder Jack Colback into the left-back slot.
In fairness, Colback was one of the few Sunderland players who produced any hint of consistency under Di Canio. But, by his own admission, he didn’t ask or want to play at left-back.
Signing Andrea Dossena as cover for Colback was a panic measure, but with Napoli continuing to pay the bulk of the former Liverpool man’s wages, it held obvious appeal.
But after a promising debut in the Wear-Tyne derby, the 32-year-old has rarely convinced. When his one-year contract expires in the summer, he will doubtless return to Italy.
Alonso has filled the obvious void and, despite boasting another two years on his Fiorentina contract, there is clearly scope for a deal to be done after making just one start in Serie A following his move from Bolton last summer.
A potential swap deal with defensive flop Modibo Diakite would be the stuff of dreams for Sunderland’s hierarchy.
Alonso, himself, is playing a straight bat over his future.
“I have two more years in Italy, so I will have to go back at the end of the season,” he told the Echo last week.
But privately, both Alonso and Sunderland are keen to strike a deal, providing Premier League safety is assured.
If Sunderland are going to move forward, they need the foundations of the side to be solid and that means halting this seemingly endless merry-go-round of left-backs.
Regardless of what division Sunderland are in, Poyet will be equally eager to secure a midfield playmaker and attacking pest – like the temporary ones he currently at his disposal.
But it would make a pleasant change for the Black Cats to finally conclude a transfer window with the checklist for both full-back positions ticked off.