TITUS Bramble is mulling over a move to America as the final days of his Sunderland contract runs down.
The centre-half’s three-year deal which brought him to Sunderland from Wigan in 2010 expires at the end of June, and he will not be offered a new one.
And among the options he is considering is a move to Major League Soccer, where several clubs Stateside have been alerted to his availability.
Bramble is one of the highest-paid players at Sunderland and has produced plenty of good displays for the Black Cats during his time at the Stadium of Light.
But he has also proved injury prone – making just 42 league starts in three seasons – and several times has attracted embarrassing news headlines for off-field incidents.
On top of that, he is also 32 this summer, and new boss Paolo Di Canio’s drive is for fitter, faster and younger players.
Bramble’s Premier League career appears to have drawn to a close with not even Steve Bruce at Hull City likely to revisit a player whose knee problems now restrict his ability to train.
And the defender is unlikely to fancy the long slog of a 46-game season in the Championship – even if a club at that level could afford anywhere near his current wages.
After more than a decade in the top flight with Sunderland, Wigan and Newcastle, Bramble has nothing to prove.
And the fresh challenge of football in America in the twilight of his career would have a big appeal.
One thing for certain is that Bramble will be on his way out of Wearside, and he won’t be the only one as Sunderland prepare the way for an entirely new defence next season.
Matt Kilgallon and Phil Bardsley both featured in ‘Casino-gate’ – the story of bad behaviour which has made national headlines.
And after their late night session last week, both are all but certain never to play again for the club.
Bruce, having guided Hull to promotion, is expected to made a bid for Bardsley this summer, and that would be an obvious fit for both player and the clubs involved – though the Echo can confirm that no offer has been made by the Tigers yet.
Meanwhile centre-half Kader Mangane, signed in the January transfer window, will leave Sunderland now his loan deal has concluded.
And that will leave Sunderland with just three recognised first-team defenders – John O’Shea, Carlos Cuellar and Wes Brown.
There are huge question marks though over whether the injury-plagued Brown – 34 in November – will ever play Premier League football again after a season out with a knee problem.
Looking forward to the future, Di Canio plans to put the accent on youth and athleticism in his summer signings and will sign pacey, powerful centre-halves to compete against, and to support, 32-year-old O’Shea and 31-year-old Cuellar.
One strong link is 25-year-old French defender Valentin Roberge, who plays for Portutguese side Maritimo.
The Italian will also look to bring attacking, overlapping full-backs who can also defend, and one of his first moves of the summer will be to try securing the signing of Danny Rose.
The Spurs left-back spent the 2012-13 season on loan to Sunderland and is believed to be happy to make the move permanent. But much depends on what happens at White Hart Lane this summer.
And Liverpool have also been linked with an interest in the England Under 21 international, who has hugely boosted his standing in the game thanks to his season on Wearside.
Di Canio goes into the close season having been happy to quote the ‘six or seven new signings’ line as his benchmark.
But the reality is, he needs to sign at least four defenders this summer to give basic cover – maybe even five.
That means the chances are that the number of signings Di Canio makes before the transfer window closes in August, is much more likely to be in the region of eight or nine, or even double figures, rather than the six or seven he initially mooted.