TWO South American clubs are battling for the services of Sunderland’s unwanted Argentine international Marcos Angeleri.
The 29-year-old wants out of England after a miserable couple of years in which he has made a handful of appearances and it looked last month as though Argentine side Independiente would give him the escape route he craved.
But now it appears as though he could rejoin former club Estudiantes after spending time training with them and the two rival clubs are set to hammer it out for the suddenly in-demand defender’s signature over the next few days.
Sunderland will not mind which club Angeleri joins, and would also find a loan move in the last year of his contract at the Stadium of Light acceptable – just so long as they get him off the wage bill.
Manager Martin O’Neill has a firm idea of who he wants to bring in this summer, but his budget remains flexible and can be influenced by who he lets go and who he sells, so reducing unnecessary squad expenditure can only help.
Nine players were released at the end of the season, the most notable being former £9million signing Craig Gordon.
Gordon’s weekly wage was among the very biggest at the club – more than the other eight released players put together – and Angeleri, too, is on a handsome salary.
These things are often disregarded by the fans, but the wages can matter immensely in terms of giving managers more or less latitude to manoeuvre in the transfer market.
And Angeleri’s impending departure – just like those of Paraguayans Cristian Riveros and Paulo Da Silva from Steve Bruce’s ill-fated South American excursions – will be of benefit to Sunderland.
Estudiantes appear to be winning the battle to sign the 29-year-old right-back after he was spotted training with his former team-mates in the city of La Plata, where the club is based.
“It’s true, I have spoken to Estudiantes,” he said.
“It is important, and it is good for me, to know that big clubs such as Estudiantes and Independiente are looking at me.
“We’ll see how things go.”
This weekend, Estudiantes will say goodbye to club legend Juan Sebastian Veron – who spent six years in England with Manchester United and Chelsea – the 37-year-old set to play his final game of the season on Sunday.
And reports in Argentina suggest Angeleri’s return could be announced as part of the events planned around Veron’s retirement.
Such plans might be overly-ambitious, with negotiations between Estudiantes and Sunderland’s representative in South America far from complete, but Veron’s departure will certainly leave more money available to the club.
Despite that, Sunderland stand little chance of recouping any of the £1.5m Bruce spent bringing him to Sunderland in 2010.
The Argentina international has endured a miserable time on Wearside, aggravating an old knee ligament injury within weeks of moving to England and quickly falling out of favour with Bruce.
After making just three appearances in his first season at Sunderland, he was all set to join Estudiantes last summer, only for the deal to break down.
Angeleri returned to Sunderland and underwent surgery in September to fix the knee problem that continued to dog him, spending much of last season undergoing rehabilitation.
He is now fully fit but O’Neill revealed last month that Angeleri wanted to return to home.