IRISH winger James McClean is expected to complete a move to Sunderland this week, in a switch that has already had repercussions on his international career.
But the 22-year-old will not be the solution to Sunderland’s search for a natural left-sided midfielder, with the Derry City man earmarked as a player for the future.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce remains on the lookout for a proven wideman after Steed Malbranque’s exit from the Stadium of Light last week made a significant saving to the wage budget.
Bruce still needs to offload more players before he is given the go-ahead to further strengthen Sunderland’s squad.
Efforts are continuing to complete Marcos Angeleri’s return to former club Estudiantes, while Sunderland are working hard to sell George McCartney, Nyron Nosworthy and Matt Kilgallon.
But Bruce has already begun the process of identifying targets with Manchester City’s Craig Bellamy at the top of the Sunderland manager’s list.
Bruce confirmed publicly over the weekend his interest in the former Newcastle United man, who is surplus to requirements at Eastlands.
The Welshman’s £80,000 a-week-wages are the obvious stumbling block, although City could pay a portion of his salary if a loan move was agreed, as they did when the 32-year-old spent last year at hometown club Cardiff City.
Bellamy flexibility to play either on the left or up front appeals to Bruce, who much prefers the ex-Liverpool man to City team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Reports yesterday linked Sunderland with Tottenham’s out-of-favour midfielder Niko Kranjcar too, with a loan move mooted as the likeliest route for the Croatian international.
It would be a major surprise if anyone other than McClean arrives before Sunderland’s Premier League opener at Liverpool on Saturday though.
Bruce has confirmed that Sunderland are “in talks” with McClean and a fee, thought to be around the £300,000 mark, is understood to have been agreed with Derry.
But McClean falls into the same category as 19-year-old winger Roarie Deacon, who arrived on a free transfer from Arsenal this summer, with both earmarked to continue their development in Sunderland’s reserves.
The imminent move to Wearside has already had a bearing on McClean’s international career though, with the ex-Wigan and Everton target withdrawing from the Northern Ireland squad for Wednesday’s Euro 2012 qualifier with the Faroe Islands.
McClean has confirmed he plans to make himself available for the Republic of Ireland despite playing at youth level for Northern Ireland.
“It was a blow seeing Irish League players being called up before me to the Northern Ireland squad, but having got the call I was relieved,” McClean said.
“However, it’s always been my dream to play for the Republic and hopefully that will become a reality now that I’m going to be a Sunderland player.”