CARLOS Cuellar insists he never had any intention of returning to Spain this summer.
Spanish outfits Seville and Malaga were both interested in signing Cuellar after his contract at Aston Villa expired at the end of last season.
But the 30-year-old was always determined to remain in the Premier League and decided to join Sunderland after speaking to Villa hitman and former Black Cats striker Darren Bent.
Despite the acrimony over his Sunderland exit 18 months ago, Bent still looks back at his time on Wearside fondly and encouraged Cuellar to make the move to the Stadium of Light.
Cuellar said: “I had a lot of options but I wanted to stay here. In England I like the Premier League and I feel comfortable here.
“I like the atmosphere, the professional life every day is a little bit different in Spain to here and I like to be here.
“I didn’t want to go back to Spain so the choice to come to Sunderland was easy because I wanted to stay in England.
“And I knew of Sunderland, of course. I knew because I had been with Darren Bent and he was always talking well about the club, the city, the supporters, the atmosphere and everything.
“All the time when we were together he had good things to say.
“We were talking last year when Sunderland were interested and he was always saying good things.”
Bent’s endorsement was not the only attraction for Cuellar, who links up with Martin O’Neill for the second time in his career.
O’Neill splashed out almost £8million to take Cuellar from Rangers to Villa four years ago and the centre-half is clearly relishing the prospect of working under the Sunderland manager again.
“Because he was a player he knows what you’re thinking every moment, what you need every moment and he is very good at reading how you’re feeling,” added Cuellar.
“He gives you everything you need to make sure you give him everything back. There is good communication and that makes it easy.
“In the way he trains and the way you play with him, it’s enjoyable but there is pressure too with him.
“Training every day is fantastic. It is always enjoyable, you come in happy every day, that is the main thing, but afterwards there is big pressure to play because he wants to win every game.
“You can have a different relationship with the manager and have a joke maybe in training, but when you have a game you have to work, you have to play, you have to be 100 per cent.”