THE TRANSFERS of Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon to Sunderland have inched closer, with the club now hopeful that at least one and possibly both players will sign over the weekend.
Yesterday evening the proposed loan move for Muntari took a big step forward when Sunderland were granted the backing they needed from the Football Association which makes the granting of a work permit for the Inter Milan midfielder a formality.
Meanwhile, Paris St Germain have relaxed their previously stern stance on Sessegnon, now allowing talks on personal terms to be discussed while they thrash out the details on a £5.5m permanent move to the Stadium of Light.
But there is still a lot of work to be done on both deals – the Muntari one in particular – and no one at Sunderland is taking anything for granted as a weekend of intense negotiating between clubs and players take place.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce travelled to London with club officials yesterday to present the case for Muntari being granted a work permit.
The Ghanaian international had failed to meet the criteria of playing in 75 per cent of his country’s international games in the last two years – a standard which is imposed to prevent the Premier League from being flooded with foreign players of inferior quality, taking the jobs of homegrown players.
But Sunderland explained that Muntari failed to meet the criteria only because of a fall-out with former Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac which saw him miss games through not being selected or refusing to play.
And the Football Association recognised the fact that a player who played starring roles in previous African Cup of Nations tournament and has appeared in a Champions League final for Inter Milan was clearly a player of sufficient quality to be granted a permit.
Now, all that remains is for the clubs to agree personal terms with the player but that could easily be the biggest hurdle of all and it’s that potential stumbling block which could make or break the deal.
Muntari is on big wages at Inter, so discussions over pay could be an issue which wrecks the move at the 11th hour.
There are also agreements which need to be reached with Inter on the exact detail of the loan move, which is currently set to be turned into a permanent £7m move in the summer.
Similarly with Sessegnon, though PSG now coming fully to the table should smooth the way for the deal to be completed, there is still the issue of personal terms to be thrashed out and those have wrecked many a move just when they appeared to be over the line.
Manager Steve Bruce said: “We’re hopeful on both signings but you never fully believe you’ve got a player on board until the ink is dry on the contract
“There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone on in the background to get this far and a lot of work which continues to go on in the background as we get closer to the end.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to sign both but you never count your chickens in this business and we just have to see what happens over the weekend.”