MARTIN O’NEILL admits Michael Turner’s contract situation prompted Sunderland to offload the central defender.
Sunderland manager O’Neill is still awaiting the outcome of discussions between Turner and Norwich City after the Black Cats agreed a fee with the Canaries for the sale of the central defender.
Turner (pictured) has less than a year remaining on his Sunderland contract and, despite the former Hull man starting the final 20 games of last season, O’Neill has confirmed that the 28-year-old was not going to be offered a new deal to stay on Wearside.
And with Sunderland boasting another five central defenders, plus youngsters Louis Laing and John Egan, O’Neill believes the deal is a good one for both the Black Cats and Turner.
O’Neill told the Echo: “We have a number of centre-halves.
“Since Michael came into the side under me, he’s stayed in the team. But, at the moment, I was unable to offer him an extension to his contract.
“Norwich came in with the promise of some extra years and it’s something he wanted to look at.
“But if things don’t develop, then he’s welcome back because he did as well as anyone in the last couple of months of the season.”
The summer signing of Carlos Cuellar boosted Sunderland’s defensive options after O’Neill handed the out-of-contract Spaniard a two-year deal to become his first permanent acquisition as Black Cats boss.
But O’Neill says Cuellar was not necessarily signed as a replacement for Turner after the former Aston Villa boss saw how Sunderland’s central defensive options were decimated by injuries last season.
“Carlos was out-of-contract and the business was too good to turn down, having known the player,” said O’Neill.
“We probably needed to bring in Carlos because if you consider I took (Sotirios) Kyrgiakos last January, it tells you the problems we had at centre-half.
“Titus (Bramble) played the Boxing Day game and we didn’t see him again until the last day of the season, Wes Brown got injured and at times Matt Kilgallon and John (O’Shea) went out as well.
“I’m delighted that Michael played the games, otherwise I don’t know where we would have been.”
Cuellar remains the only new arrival at the Stadium of Light this summer, with Sunderland continuing negotiations over O’Neill’s primary targets.
But Blackburn’s Steven N’Zonzi, who has been linked with Sunderland this summer, is one player who will not be signing, with the Frenchman on the verge of joining Spanish outfit Seville on loan – although the Black Cats are not thought to have made an offer for the 23-year-old.
O’Neill added: “We’re just waiting because there’s prices to be negotiated. It just seems to be the modern thing that they take longer now.
“There hasn’t been a phenomenal amount of movement in the transfer market, but that doesn’t matter.
“I’m not too concerned about what other clubs are doing.
“We have our eye on one or two players where we’re hoping to do something.
“We all know what’s needed at the football club and I will do my very best to ensure that happens.”