JI DONG-WON is causing Gus Poyet a headache over whether there is a place for him in Sunderland’s system.
The South Korean is yet to feature under Poyet’s stewardship and hasn’t even been included on the bench since the former Brighton manager was appointed as Sunderland head coach in October.
Ji, who was the subject of a £5million bid during the summer which was rejected by ex-Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio, is out-of-contract at the end of the season and the Black Cats may be tempted to cash-in on him in January.
Poyet says he has been impressed by Ji’s ability on the training field and would like to give the striker a first-team opportunity.
But he admits that he is yet to find a solution over where to fit the former Chunnam Dragons man into the Black Cats line-up.
Poyet told the Echo: “I think it’s incredible that he hasn’t featured yet.
“He’s a very good player, but I need to find the opportunity to say to him: ‘Here you go. Don’t try to think too much about how we’re playing, just go out there and play’.
“But I don’t know how to play him because that’s what he needs.
“I can’t explain why he’s not playing, it’s similar to Fabio Borini.”
Sunderland were willing to part company with Ji during the summer after he spent the second half of last season on loan at German side Augsburg.
But Di Canio vetoed a proposed £5m move to Borussia Dortmund in the belief that Ji could develop into a huge asset for the Black Cats.
Dortmund were one of a number of Bundesliga outfits who were interested in signing Ji, with VfB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg and Borrusia Monchengladbach also keeping tabs on the 22-year-old.
If Sunderland do make Ji available, a return to Germany remains the likeliest route.
But it is understood that former employers Augsburg are unlikely to make a January move, with Turkish international Halil Altintop and Czech international Jan Moravek currently performing well in the attacking roles for the Bavarian-based club.
Augsburg, currently lying 10th in the Bundesliga, could be tempted by Ji in the summer when he is out-of-contract though, albeit Sunderland would be due compensation as the frontman is under 24.