FREE AGENTS Mohamed Diame and Carlos Cuellar remain on Sunderland’s radar, although the Black Cats are not expected to make any imminent inroads into the transfer market.
The Echo reported earlier this month how Martin O’Neill was taking a pro-active stance regarding Bosmans, as Sunderland chase cost-effective solutions in their summer recruitment drive.
Diame and Cuellar are two of the most attractive out-of-contract players available, but neither are on the verge of an immediate switch to the Stadium of Light.
Powerful Senegalese midfielder Diame had been close to joining Liverpool prior to the dismissal of manager Kenny Dalglish, but the expected appointment of Brendan Rodgers at Anfield has thrown their interest into doubt.
The former Wigan man is being courted by a host of other suitors both in the Premier League and abroad, but the Black Cats chances of landing the 24-year-old will be boosted by his desire to remain in England.
Diame said: “I am free and not everybody is free at this moment like a midfield player like me and that is why I have got a lot of clubs interested in me.
“I have to be composed and make a good decision for my future.
“I have got some offers from Spain, from France, from Turkey, but I really want to stay in the Premier League.”
O’Neill knows Cuellar well, having spent almost £8million to take the Spanish defender from Rangers to Aston Villa in the summer of 2008.
Sunderland are thought to have held talks with the 30-year-old’s agent and O’Neill is keen to strengthen his options in central defence.
Ideally, Sunderland would like to offload one of Matt Kilgallon, Titus Bramble and Michael Turner, although the latter is arguably the least likely to leave after starting the final 20 games of the campaign.
Like Diame, Cuellar wants to remain in the Premier League, despite interest on the Continent – most notably from Spanish outfit Malaga.
Cuellar said: “As a youngster it was always my dream to play in England because of the style of play. I had the opportunity and I want to keep it. After five years abroad I miss my family and friends, so sometimes when I go back for holidays my heart tells me maybe I should return. But my head tells me to stay in England.
“Obviously it depends on if I get any offers, but this is my priority. I enjoy my sporting life in England.”
O’Neill told the Echo a fortnight ago that he would be swift in making known his interest in potential Bosman signings, before they were snapped up by any Premier League rivals.
Although Sunderland are eyeing big-money moves – most notably £10m-rated Wolves striker Steven Fletcher – O’Neill is well aware of the benefits of a bargain after the Wearsiders landed Seb Larsson, David Vaughan and Keiren Westwood on free transfers last summer.
“We will be looking in every market,” said O’Neill.
“But I agree, that there might be one or two players available on Bosmans who are really worthwhile and can be an asset to the football club. We will have to be sharp and quick off the blocks though, because anyone who is half-decent will not be available for long.”