CARLOS Cuellar is in line to become Sunderland’s first new signing of the summer.
The Spanish centre-half, available on a Bosman free transfer, is poised to agree a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light if, as expected, negotiations go smoothly over the next few days and a medical is passed.
Cuellar’s agent, Pedro Bravo, is currently in England expecting to push a move through.
And that will disappoint a range of clubs across the continent who would have been interested in taking the former Aston Villa man but knew they would not be able to match the wages on offer in the English Premier League.
The 31-year-old’s arrival will signal the start of Martin O’Neill putting his own stamp on the squad he inherited from sacked Steve Bruce last December, with more new faces set to arrive next month.
The new manager has so far brought in only two players, both on loan – Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge and Wolfsburg’s Sotirios Kyrgiakos, arriving in the January transfer window as first-team cover.
O’Neill began to change the complexion of the squad last month when he allowed nine players to leave, most notably former British record goalkeeper signing Craig Gordon, but also fellow long-serving stopper Trevor Carson and young strikers Jordan Cook and Oumare Tounkara.
Cuellar though would be the first signing aimed at altering the make-up of the first-team squad and could put question marks over the future of fellow centre-halves Michael Turner, Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble, who are all in the last year of their current contracts.
The Spaniard was brought to Aston Villa by Martin O’Neill in 2008 – the manager rating Cuellar so highly that he paid Glasgow Rangers £7.8m to acquire him.
His preferred position is centre-half, though he has regularly played at right-back at Villa. He has even played at left-back on occasion when Stephen Warnock was out of form.
If he comes to Sunderland though, he will hope to be deployed in the central defensive role O’Neill had in mind for him when he originally signed him for Villa.
Although some suggestions that the deal is already done have been overplayed, Cuellar’s move to Sunderland is now confidently expected to go ahead.