SUNDERLAND are running the rule over highly-rated Zambian international centre-half Stoppila Sunzu.
The 23-year-old, who is determined to move to the Premier League this summer, is currently attracting the interest of Reading as well as Arsenal – and he was at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to take in the Gunners’ visit to the North East.
The 6ft 3in defender, who plays his club football for Congolese side TP Mazembe, was called up by his country last month for the African Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa, playing in the country’s three draws against Ethiopia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso
But he was allowed to temporarily leave the tournament preparations to train with Reading with a view to a permanent move – Sunzu having previously trained with the Berkshire club in 2007 only to be denied a work permit.
That recent spell at Reading ended inconclusively and somewhat controversially – Sunzu suggesting he is now a free agent, while TP Mazembe insist he is under contract until 2015 and they rate him in the £4m bracket.
And while those issues are being resolved, Sunderland are monitoring the situation of a player who became a national hero iwhen he helped Zambia win their first ever African Cup of Nations title last year.
Last year’s final against the Ivory Coast ended goalless and went to penalties – with Zambia eventually winning 7-6 when Sunzu slotted home the winning spot-kick after a miss from Gervinho.
This year, Sunzu played in all three Cup of Nations games, but three draws saw Zambia bow out of the tournament before the quarter-final stage.
The player is now hoping to earn himself a move to the Premier League.
With 37 caps for his country, a work permit should no longer be a problem for the imposing centre-half, who has made it clear he wants to leave his present club.
His agent Paul Carew is looking to negotiate a move for the player. But with Reading failing to agree anything and Arsenal yet to show their hand, Sunderland will look to press home their interest if manager Martin O’Neill believes Sunzu can make an impact at Premier League level.