SUNDERLAND need to be patient in the hunt for Steven Fletcher, as Wolves consider whether to up their asking price for the Scottish striker.
Despite comments from Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey yesterday, Sunderland’s £10million bid for Fletcher is not thought to have been rejected out-of-hand after the Black Cats became the first club to put money on the table for the 25-year-old.
But Sunderland are braced for a drawn out saga involving the negotiations for Fletcher’s signature, as the two parties look to reach an agreement over a fee for the frontman.
Moxey returns to the UK later this week after a trip abroad and that gives the Molineux outfit leeway to contemplate Sunderland’s offer and see if it stokes interest from other Premier League sides.
Although Sunderland are the only club to have made a bid for Fletcher, Stoke and Fulham have both made enquiries, while Aston Villa are also thought to be seriously interested in the former Hibs and Burnley striker.
Villa appear to be Sunderland’s main rivals for Fletcher’s signature, particularly as they could offer him the chance to remain in the West Midlands.
But money remains tight at Martin O’Neill’s former club and Wolves will not accept anything less than seven figures for their top scorer from the last two seasons.
Wolves are thought to have been looking for £10m for Fletcher all summer, but now that Sunderland have made an offer which totals that asking price, last season’s Premier League basement boys must decide whether to look for more from the Black Cats.
Sunderland’s pursuit of Fletcher is further complicated by a 15 per cent sell-on clause to his former club Burnley – reducing Wolves’ profits on a player they paid £7m for two years ago.
Certainly, Moxey was suitably vague in his comments yesterday – refusing to discuss Sunderland’s bid and stressing Wolves’ general determination to keep hold of their key figures.
“We’re not getting drawn on offers for players in or out,” said Moxey.
“Our best players are not for sale, we want to keep them and build the strongest possible team for the season ahead.
“We will do everything we can to retain the players we want to keep and continue to look to strengthen with new signings.”
Whatever Moxey’s assertions, Fletcher still looks almost-certain to leave Molineux this summer and the player is equally keen for his future to be resolved after months of speculation.
Certainly Fletcher, who is not expected to feature in Wolves’ pre-season friendly at Shrewsbury Town tonight due to an ankle problem, is interested in a move to the Stadium of Light and has been well aware of O’Neill’s interest.
Fletcher’s agent, Scott Fisher, said: “We’ve always carefully managed where Steven goes next and I think that Martin O’Neill would get the best out of him.”
Meanwhile, Villa defender James Collins, who has been linked with a reunion with O’Neill throughout the summer, is in talks with West Ham.