The 3 key questions as Sunderland fight to hold on to Jermain Defoe

Bilic has been talking up Defoe's ability again this morning
Bilic has been talking up Defoe's ability again this morning
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Sunderland fans are understandably anxious about West Ham United's interest in Jermain Defoe.

The club have been insistent that the 34-year-old is not for sale, however, and currently there is no reason to believe that won't prove to be the case.

Defoe already has 11 Premier League goals this season

Defoe already has 11 Premier League goals this season

The Echo understands West Ham could yet offer £15 million for the striker, but even that will not be enough.

Yet the pervading feeling is that this saga has a way to go before it is over. Slaven Bilic did not confirm that another bid is on the way in his press conference this morning, but the way he talked Defoe up again suggests he doesn't think it's all over.

So what happens next? These are the key questions that will be answered over the coming days and weeks.

1. The club are insisting he's not for sale, so what happens next?

At the moment, the best prediction we can make is that West Ham will keep bidding, and Sunderland will keep rejecting.

It is almost inconceivable that Sunderland will fold and accept a bid, unless it gets to stratospheric levels. They have next to no chance of finding an adequate replacement; Europe's top talent unlikely to sign while the very real prospect of relegation hangs.

If Sunderland were sitting in mid-table, with goals coming from all over the field, a £10-15million bid for a 34-year-old would clearly be tempting. Right now, however the stakes are too high. If Sunderland were to go down, it would of course be a different story.

So the only way the situation changes is if West Ham put a scarcely credible deal on the table, or Defoe himself agitates for a move.

2. Will Defoe really want to go?

Conventional wisdom across the game (and particularly in the capital) is that Defoe wants to go back to London.

That may well be true, and it may well be the case that he feels he has unfinished business with West Ham. Financially the Hammers are in a much stronger position, and earned a spot in Europe last season. Perhaps, too, Defoe feels he is more likely to get one last shot at England duty with West Ham. Playing in front of Dimitri Payet, he could score a hatful.

Yet most of the analysis is very simplistic and the situation is far more complicated.

First and foremost, Defoe's love of the club and the North East has been eloquently described by the man himself and goes well beyond the standard platitudes used to curry favour with supporters. Sunderland, after all, were the club that brought him back from footballing exile and gave him another go at the top level. Defoe has repaid that faith in full but there is enduring sense of loyalty from the partnership.

The financial picture is not as simple as presumed, either.

Yes, West Ham can offer big wages but Defoe has a contract with Sunderland that offers extraordinary and almost unprecedented security for a player of his age. Would the Hammers really be willing to offer him six figures until his he is 37?

Defoe can also be assured of a first team spot at Sunderland and a chance to chase down 200 PL goals. West Ham can in the short term but given their scattergun approach to transfers, whose to say Defoe won't slide down the pecking order in the summer?

All in all, it would still be a major surprise if Defoe tried to force Sunderland's hand.

3. Finally, what does the bid for Scott Hogan mean? And why was it more than Defoe's?!

In terms of West Ham's pursuit of Defoe, probably not very much.

The Hammers' striking situation is absolutely wretched and they are probably looking to sign both, rather than one or the other.

Simone Zaza has 'no future' after failing to impress since signing on loan from Juventus in the summer, and Jonathan Calleri has also struggled. Andy Carroll's injury problems are no secret and £20 million summer signing Andre Ayew is heading for the African Cup of Nations.

As for why the initial bid for Hogan is so much higher, it can only really come down to a matter of age. Hogan is 10 years Defoe's junior and would also cost considerably less in wages.

It may well be that West Ham were simply trying to pull a fast on Sunderland, given their finances.

Sunderland fans can remain hopeful for the time being that they aren't going to go close to the kind of fee that would make the club blink.