Joey Barton has admitted he wants to bring Ched Evans back to Fleetwood Town next season - but is worried Sunderland could scupper his bid.
Sheffield United frontman Evans has been on loan at Fleetwood this season and has scored 16 goals in 37 games for the League One side.
The Welsh international was a transfer target for Sunderland in January as they looked to find a replacement for Josh Maja, before finally clinching a £4million deal for Will Grigg.
It is unlikely Sunderland would revisit a deal for Evans, regardless of what division they are in next season, but Barton says that if they do, the Black Cats' extra financial power would blow Fleetwood out of the water.
"It will be on the finances. I don’t have a magic wand," the Liverpudlian told the Blackpool Gazette when asked about a new deal for Evans.
"One side in our division (Sunderland) has spent more on agents’ fees than our entire budget. If they decide they want him there is nothing we can do about it. They were sniffing around him in January.
"He’s a great player, becoming a real leader in the dressing room. I’d love to have him but I say the same about Coyley (Lewie Coyle), Soutts (Harry Souttar), Jason Holt - great characters, who really added to our group."
Evans has a year left on his Sheffield United contract, and looks unlikely to play for the Blades again, with Chris Wilder's side chasing promotion to the Premier League.
Wilder recommended Evans to Sunderland owner Stewart Donald in January, before the Black Cats decided against a deal after holding talks with manager Jack Ross.
Donald said: "I know Chris Wilder well and I phoned him directly and asked him 'who you got, who you looking to move out because we need a striker'.
"He gave me a couple of names of people out there and I mentioned him (Evans), and we said to Sheffield United that we may be be interested.
"Jack talked it through and again it was a footballing decision. We got down the avenue of having a conversation and then Jack said 'I think we want to go in a different direction, so no thank you'."