SUNDERLAND will continue their pursuit of major summer target Jozy Altidore, despite having an opening offer rejected by AZ Alkmaar, writes Graeme Anderson.
As the Echo revealed almost a fortnight ago now, Sunderland have targeted the free-scoring 23-year-old American as the man to galvanise their attacking line-up next season.
And though the Dutch side are holding out for more money, they are fully expected to sell their star striker this summer – with the Black Cats firm favourites to get their man.
Some confusion exists over whether or not Sunderland’s bid was officially rejected, with a club spokesman saying: “The first offer was not sufficient. That we can say. Now it’s wait and see.”
However, the club’s technical director Earnie Stewart, while confirming Sunderland were the only club yet to make a bid for the USA international, told American media: “I have not spoken to them yet.”
What is beyond doubt, though, is that Sunderland have prime position at the negotiating table with other clubs rumoured to be interested having not yet made a bid.
The Echo understands that Altidore would welcome a move to Sunderland.
Last night, the American striker’s agent, Lyle Yorks, was believed to be en route from the United States to Europe, as a move for the player comes closer.
Altidore scored 31 goals for his side last season and clubs from across Europe will have been watching him.
But Sunderland have made no secret of their desire to bring him to Wearside.
And the mid-table Eredivision club knows that now is the prime time to sell a player who helped them win the Dutch Cup last season.
Sunderland’s head coach Paolo Di Canio has made half a dozen new signings so far this close season but has yet to land a senior striker.
And the club is determined to bring in the 6’1”, powerfully-built, Altidore to improve the Black Cats’ options up front.
Altidore would be expected to partner Steven Fletcher up front at Sunderland once the Scottish international is fit again.
Sunderland, of course, have other options up front in the meantime – Danny Graham, Stephane Sessegnon, Connor Wickham, and Ji Dong-won.
But with Di Canio engaged in a huge overhaul of Sunderland’s squad, real question marks have been raised over the future of each of that quartet of strikers.