JERMAIN Defoe is in the thinking of Martin O’Neill, with the Sunderland manager’s efforts to sign Steven Fletcher appearing to have hit the buffers for the moment.
The Echo understands that it is not a case of either/or, when it comes to the two strikers. The Black Cats boss wants a targetman capable of scoring goals – a Fletcher figure – and also a prolific goalscorer, in the mould of Spurs striker Defoe.
Both players are the sort O’Neill would like to bring in, though a deal for either still appears a long way off.
Sunderland have reached deadlock on their attempts to sign Fletcher, with Wolves holding out for colossal money for the wantaway striker.
The Black Cats have upped their offer three times in negotiations and this week reached the £12m mark they had been led to believe would seal a deal for the Scottish forward.
But the West Midlands club have now shifted their position, wanting a transfer fee in the region of £15m initially, rising to near £20m with add-ons.
That leaves the deal dead in the water as far as Sunderland are concerned, with O’Neill still looking to make progress on other fronts – and the club not ruling out a move for Spurs hit-man Jermain Defoe.
Defoe has been linked with Sunderland before – he was mentioned as a potential signing for Steve Bruce last summer and also at the start of the current transfer window when it became obvious the club were seeking proven strikers.
But any move for the Londoner would not be quick or easy – Spurs always drive hard bargains with negotiations never swift.
And even if new Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas was ready to let the 29-year-old leave, he is short of strikers himself – with only Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart realistically available to call on, now that Emmanuel Adebayor, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Louis Saha have left White Hart Lane.
Spurs would almost certainly want a replacement in before Defoe was let go and that would mean no deal soon.
That doesn’t help Sunderland, who want strikers in quickly and had hoped to make quick progress on Fletcher this week.
The Wolves board’s stance seems based entirely on the fact that ex-Black Cats striker Darren Bent signed for Aston Villa in January last year for an initial £18m, rising to £24m. Wolves are pointing out that at 25, Fletcher is younger than 28-year-old Bent, and also outscored the England man last season.
Sunderland however have no intention of going anywhere near the Championship club’s inflated valuation and need Wolves to shift their position for any deal to progress.