Sebastian Coates is set to become Sunderland’s first summer signing, with the defender now a whisker away from completing his move from Liverpool.
The Echo revealed last month how Sunderland were pushing ahead with a permanent bid for Coates after the successful conclusion to his season-long loan proved crucial to the Black Cats retaining their Premier League status.
The deal - potentially worth up to £4million - is now close to being rubber-stamped
It is understood that Sunderland have made firm progress in their pursuit of Coates and the deal – potentially worth up to £4million – is on the verge of being rubber-stamped.
Coates’ participation in the Copa America could hold up any formal confirmation, but Sunderland are now increasingly confident that the Uruguayan will fill one piece of the jigsaw in Dick Advocaat’s plan to turn around the club’s fortunes next season.
Signing Coates was always going to be one of Sunderland’s most straightforward pieces of business this summer, with Liverpool ready to offload the 24-year-old ahead of the final 12 months of his contract at Anfield.
Leicester City were keeping tabs on Coates during the final six games of the season, when the centre-half was completely transformed and became one of the key factors behind Sunderland beating the drop.
But Sunderland were always hopeful that they could keep hold of Coates, while the player himself was keen to remain at the Stadium of Light after enjoying a sustained run of Premier League games for the first time since joining Liverpool in a £7million deal four years ago.
The only potential hurdle was Coates’ lucrative Liverpool salary after Sunderland had only paid a proportion of his wages during his season-long loan on Wearside.
Yet that appears to have been overcome, with Coates ready to agree terms to become the first signing of the Advocaat era.
Sunderland are still expected to be in the market for another centre-half, despite Wes Brown agreeing a one-year contract extension last week.
As reported last weekend, Santiago Vergini could return to Argentina for a second spell with Newell’s Old Boys, despite Sunderland being duty-bound to sign the defender after last season’s loan spell.
And that will give Sunderland the breathing space to land another fresh face at the heart of the back four, with the Black Cats keen to land Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk.