SUNDERLAND are expected to fight off Aston Villa’s late bid to hijack Seb Larsson’s move to Wearside.
The Swedish winger’s switch to the Stadium of Light is all but rubber-stamped and the club is quietly confident that the 26-year-old will be wearing the famous red and white stripes next season.
But new Villa manager Alex McLeish will test Larsson’s resolve to re-unite himself with his former Birmingham City boss Steve Bruce and is believed to be ready with an attractive financial offer for a player who left St Andrew’s this summer on a Bosman free transfer.
Larsson’s decision to leave the Blues was sparked by his belief that the money he was on at the West Midlands club was far less than the going rate for a player of his calibre.
Sunderland have offered him a deal which gives him the big increase in wages he thought he deserved and according to reports in Sweden, Larsson is happy to accept the Black Cats offer and is looking forward to working again with Bruce.
But McLeish, who left Birmingham City under a cloud this month before joining their bitter rivals, also enjoyed a decent working relationship with Larsson and is hoping a big money offer might change the winger’s mind.
Sunderland have gone far enough down the road with Larsson to feel that the Swede will complete his move to Sunderland.
But these will be anxious days for Bruce, who admits that there’s no such thing as a done deal until the contracts are finally signed.
The manager told the Echo: “I’ve been in this business long enough to know that you never count your chickens when it comes to transfers.
“You can think everything’s agreed and then it can change around completely.
“Until you see them coming through the door and signing their deal, you’re never entirely sure.”
As well as PSV’s efforts to sign Ji Dong-won, Sunderland can also expect Liverpool and Aston Villa to be looking closely at a move for the Black Cats’ chief summer target, Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia.
However, Sunderland are more hopeful of their pursuit of Birmingham City’s goal-scoring midfielder Craig Gardner, despite the interest of Wolves boss Mick McCarthy.
Ironically, Alex McLeish would love to sign Gardner even more than Larsson, and would pay big money for a player who scored 10 goals for the relegated Blues last season.
But as Birmingham rebuild in the Championship this summer, the last club they will consider selling Gardner to is Villa and its new boss.