SUNDERLAND are considering selling Stephane Sessegnon in order to fund the purchase of the creative midfielder that manager Paolo Di Canio craves.
The Italian head coach is desperate to land a powerful playmaker, who can pull the strings in midfield and bring out the best in a new attack-minded 4-2-4 formation.
He returned to the subject again at the weekend after Sunderland’s 1-0 home defeat to Fulham, insisting that sort of player could have made all the difference.
But with the Black Cats – who lost out on Spurs midfielder Tom Huddlestone to Hull City last week – now struggling to manoeuvre in the transfer market, the club’s only option might be to sell the Benin international to fund more moves.
That move would be unwelcome, although not unacceptable to Di Canio – who underlined that he wants to keep the former Paris St Germain star.
But should Sessegnon – the subject of interest from Qatari side El Jaish – go, the Italian would push hard for a creative midfielder AND a replacement striker.
Di Canio explained: “I have given my opinion already: Sessegnon is not for sale, and we need to bring in one central midfield player.
“I don’t want to sell him. But if he is sold, we have to bring in a central midfield player and another striker.
“If someone wants to sell Sessegnon, I won’t criticise if they bring me a striker with quality and experience and a central midfield player – but not one brought in as cover, not a kid – I need a central midfielder with a background, good quality, physical presence and experience.”
Di Canio revealed his pecking order for new signings before the transfer window closes – with a left-back only third in line on his list.
The Black Cats have been strongly linked with a move for Juventus left-back Paolo De Ceglie in recent days, with several sources claiming that a season-long loan deal for the 26-year-old could be finalised this week.
But Di Canio says that that strengthening the left-back position – seen as a priority after Danny Rose’s return to Spurs in the summer from a season-long loan – is not as important to him right now as the need to strengthen across the midfield.
“If we can bring in only one player, without selling Sessegnon, it would have to be absolutely a central midfielder,” he said.
“If we can bring two – it would be a central midfield player and a winger; and then if three players, a central midfielder, a winger and a left-back.”
The fact that Di Canio sees getting in a winger as more pressing than bringing in a left-back might suggest his interest in Greek winger Charis Mavrias is not necessarily at an end.
Di Canio would love more signings, but accepts that financial restraints are limiting options.
“What would be perfect for me would be a left-back, two central midfielders, a winger and another spare man – that would be five players,” he said.
“That would be perfect but there has already been a revolution – we have spent money and we need to be sensible in this moment.
“We might be able to bring in only one player, in which case a central midfielder. Two? A central midfielder and a winger. Three? Central midfielder, winger, left-back and so on.
“This is the reality of the situation and it is not a criticism. We have to be honest and intelligent and we need to have balance.
“I cannot criticise the club because they already spent money.
“But obviously if they can make more sacrifices it would be better for the club because we would be a better side, suffer less, finish better in the league and help the company.
“I know Ellis (Short) has no problem in terms of money but the club in general can be better.
“In my opinion, these are worthwhile investments in the long run, but we will see. We have a strategy to work with what we can do.
“I don’t have the pressure of bringing players in, that is for others – but I understand we have to be sensible.
“But we have spent much less on players this summer than in the past, much less than in the past – I have to be clear.”