Highly-rated teenager Joel Asoro has caught the eye of David Moyes, as Sunderland’s search for a new striker continues.
The 17-year-old made his Sunderland debut as a late sub in the 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, becoming the club’s youngest ever Premier League player, at just 17 years and 117 days.
Asoro broke onto the first team scene during the pre-season tour of France, impressing Moyes with his pace and direct play.
Moyes wants to add at least four new signings before the transfer window closes on August 31, with a striker among the list of priorities.
But he will look to give Asoro – who was close to making his debut from the bench against Manchester City – game time when the opportunity is right.
“I think Joel is very close,” said Moyes.
“I spoke to him and said he was a little bit unlucky that he didn’t get some minutes at Manchester City.
“We were going to make a direct replacement at the time but when we got down to six or seven minutes we were thinking ‘do we just try and see this out somehow?’
“Unfortunately we didn’t.
“He was unlucky not to get some minutes at City but he has done well in the games I have seen.
“I like him, I really liked him in France.
“He is good. To be a centre forward and a very young one, it is not easy to be a regular all the time.
“But if we can find the right opportunities to get him some minutes then I will do so.”
The Swede came on for the final 10 minutes against Boro, with Sunderland in desperate need of fresh legs.
Asoro supported Defoe and Moyes believes he can learn a lot from last season’s top scorer.
“He has done well I have been impressed with his link-up play and strength,” added Moyes.
“He is like a young Jermain Defoe but he needs to learn to score like Jermain Defoe does.
“I have been impressed with his training and he is a strong little boy with his wiry shape
“I will say to Jermain he needs to tell him how he scores, only strikers can tell when they shoot through people’s legs, when they shoot, when they take it on.
“He needs to show how he gets these opportunities and they are things I am hoping he will pass on.”
For all Asoro’s promise, adding another striker to relieve some of the pressure from the shoulders of Defoe remains a key priority.
“We are still looking for another centre-forward to help Jermain play alongside him or be back-up in some way,” said Moyes.
A senior right-back, central defender and central midfielders are the other positions targeted by Moyes.
Sunderland have a strong interest in Barnsley defender Alfie Mawson, with a host of Premier League and Championship clubs tracking the former Brentford player, 22.
Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom, the ex-Sunderland defender, said “interest is growing” in the defender.