Sunderland are poised to appoint former Celtic talent spotter John Park as director of football, according to reports.
The Daily Mail claim Park will pen a five-year deal at the Stadium of Light ahead of the summer and will oversee the club’s football operation.
Park has been credited with discovering the likes of Virgil van Dijk - recently crowned Premier League Player of the Year - Victor Wanyama and Ki Sung-yueng.
Park was football development manager at Scottish giants Celtic for nine years between 2007 and 2016 and Neil Lennon had hoped to bring him back to the club this summer.
It follows the move last week by ex Sunderland man and Celtic’s former head of recruitment Lee Congerton to quit Parkhead to be reunited with Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City.
But the Daily Mail report Sunderland have beaten Celtic to Park’s signature and he will sign a long-term deal on Wearside.
They report: "Park, who was scouting chief at Celtic between 2007 and 2016 when he was credited with discovering the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama and Ki Sung-yuen, was Celtic boss Neil Lennon's choice to return to the post if the Northern Irishman landed the manager's job on a permanent basis."
Despite talk around Park possibly joining SAFC, Stewart Donald has this morning confirmed that Tony Coton, who oversaw the club's recruitment in the last two transfer windows, remains at Sunderland AFC despite reports that he had left the club.
We examine Park’s career.
What was his role at Celtic?
Park joined Celtic from Hibernian, where he was youth academy director.
On his appointment at Celtic, Park said: “The football development manager role has developed because Celtic is such a massive club.
“They’re looking to co-ordinate all the scouting, all the recruitment throughout the club, and they have seen me as the person deemed fit enough to take up the position.”
Park co-ordinated and managed the scouting network at the Scottish giants with the aim of identifying the best talent around Europe.
How highly rated is he?
Ex-Parkhead scout Peter Houston told the Herald: “John brought in a lot of money to Celtic when he was head of the operation. I don’t think anybody could argue he did his job properly. But when a new manager comes in he obviously wants his own people there beside him.
“I think John understood that. He spoke to Peter (chief executive Lawwell) and they parted amicably. That allowed Brendan to bring in Lee Congerton. He has just moved to Leicester City. It will be interesting to see what happens. It is a big appointment.
“There are rumours about John going back. I don’t know if there is any truth to them. Personally speaking, I don’t think it would do them any harm at all getting John Park back.”
What has Park been doing since leaving Celtic?
It is reported Park has been carrying out consultancy work for Maccabi Haifa and Vancouver Whitecaps in recent seasons and has spent time watching players in South America.
John Park on spotting Virgil van Dijk
“I can remember most of the games I watched Virgil play in with Groningen and with the Holland Under-21 side. I remember first clapping eyes on him and being impressed in terms of what he had at that stage as a footballer.
“I will be honest and admit that at that time we were comparing him with Mike van der Hoorn who would eventually move to Swansea from Ajax. Mike was at Utrecht at that time and we were doing comparisons with the pair of them.
“We just felt Virgil was pound for pound miles better in terms of projecting him forward. There was that bit more scope in him and we felt there was so much more potential to being able to bring more to the table.
“Virgil was a free spirit at Groningen. I quite like that in a player, someone who likes to gamble even though it will lead to the occasional mistake. I like to see young players trying something different.
“And Virgil would attempt things which was a positive quality in my eyes. There are other young players who always play safe, it’s not something I like.”