GERMAN side Augsburg have revived their interest in Ji Dong-won, the Echo understands.
And that will delight Sunderland, who stand to lose the South Korean striker for next to nothing this summer, when his contract expires.
The misfit forward has been a flop on Wearside since being signed by Steve Bruce for £2m in June 2011 – the one shining exception being the day he scored the match-winner against Manchester City on New Year’s Day 2012.
The former Chunnam Dragons attacker has managed just six starts in his two-and-a-half years at the club, scoring two goals, and head coach Gus Poyet admitted recently he had been at a loss to see how the 22-year-old would fit into his plans.
But Ji’s stock is high in Germany following a successful loan spell when he helped Augsburg escape relegation over the course of 17 games – seven of which were won; three drawn.
Incredibly, ex-head coach Paolo Di Canio turned down a £5m German bid for the striker last summer.
He claimed Ji would be an important player for the Black Cats this season – an opinion the Italian revised after seeing the forward pull out of a great heading opportunity in the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace in August.
The frankly bizarre, decision not to cash in last year, looked likely to see Sunderland miss out completely on a fee for a player who can leave for nothing in a few months.
But with the Echo having revealed that Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund – makers of that £5m bid – showing an interest in Ji this month, Augsburg have also checked on the striker’s situation
German clubs would prefer to sign Ji when he’s a free agent in the summer.
If that proves to be the case, the Black Cats would get only minimal compensation.
But Sunderland will hope that a Bundesliga side decides to bid on him now rather than risk losing out on the striker in the close season.
Ji can now talk to clubs on the continent and if several clubs are interested in his signature, Sunderland might just recoup some cash and offer greater latitude in the transfer market to head coach Gus Poyet who has included the striker in his last three squads, but admits he is struggling long-term to fit the player into his plans.
The Uruguayan told the Echo: “Ji is a very good player, but I need to find the opportunity to say to him: ‘Here you go. Don’t try to think too much about how we’re playing, just go out there and play’.
“But I haven’t known how to play him because that’s what he needs.”