Sunderland are closing in on Lorient defender Lamine Kone – but no fee has yet been agreed.
The highly-rated 26-year-old centre back is wanted by a host of Premier League clubs after impressing for the French side.
It is the Black Cats who look to have stolen a march on their rivals, though, with reports in France suggesting Kone is “very close” to signing for Sunderland.
But the Echo understands reports that a fee of “several million Euros” having already been agreed ahead of the January transfer window are wide of the mark.
A new defender is a top January priority for Sam Allardyce, with the club currently relying on the fitness of John O’Shea, Sebastian Coates and Younes Kaboul in the favoured 3-5-2 formation.
West Ham United defender James Collins is on the shortlist too but the Hammers’ injury list could prevent Collins from making the switch to the North East.
Kone is wanted by Sunderland and Allardyce made a scouting mission across the Channel last month to watch Lorient’s defeat to PSG. Sunderland scouts again watched the Ligue 1 outfit’s clash against Nice last week.
The Ivory Coast international is on Sunderland’s radar, with his agent, Mark McCay, admitting that the 26-year-old is attracting interest from the Premier League.
Kone is understood to have been keen on a move to the Premier League for more than a year and had expected to leave Lorient last summer, when Sunderland and West Ham were both linked with him.
However, Lorient insist they received no concrete offers for the Parisian, while his departure next month could be complicated by the injury to fellow centre-half Wesley Lautoa. Lorient want to sign a replacement before they sanction Kone’s exit.
Allardyce recently told the Echo he was keeping his options open when it comes to recruitment in January.
“Obviously, you target positions which are more important than others,” he said.
“But if somebody popped up in another position that wasn’t as big a priority, but could be a massive bonus to the club and could make us better, then you’re still going to try to sign him.”