Sunderland have a battle on their hands to capture the signature of £8million-rated Leeds United defender Sam Byram.
Premier League rivals Everton are weighing up a move for the right-back, while Leeds chairman and owner Massimo Cellino has vowed to do all he can to keep Byram.
‘How could I let him go? I’ll try hard to keep him here’Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino
Cellino wants to build the Leeds side around the highly-rated starlet, who is comfortable at right-back and on the wing.
The Black Cats face stiff competition from a raft of other sides looking to take the 21-year-old into the top flight.
The Toffees are monitoring the situation as a result of ongoing speculation concerning the future of Republic of Ireland international Seamus Coleman, who is wanted by Manchester United.
Everton have insisted neither Coleman nor John Stones are for sale, but the Red Devils are understood to be keen to take Coleman to Old Trafford, which would pave the way for an Everton bid for Byram.
Outspoken Cellino, though, insists a bid would not be welcome. Cellino told the Mirror: “I’m trying to keep the better players. We are signing good, new players to make a better team.
“How could I let him go? I’ll try hard to keep him here.”
Cellino rejected a £4.5m bid for Byram from Southampton last August but could find a bid in the region of £8m harder to refuse.
Everton have long been admirers of Essex-born Byram, ever since David Moyes was in charge and Roberto Martinez is ready to make a move IF Coleman moves on.
Byram, who is entering the last year of his contract, has been highly-sought after ever since he broke into the Leeds first team as a teenager under Neil Warnock in 2012.
Manchester City, Arsenal, Newcastle and Aston Villa have all been linked with Byram, and it would prove quite a coup if Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat could convince him to move to the Stadium of Light.
Byram has made no secret of his desire to play Premier League football – but speaking last week he said his immediate focus was on pre-season at Leeds. He said: “As a team, we’ve got to look towards getting promotion. That’s the main focus. From a personal point of view, I want to keep trying to improve and play as many games as I can.”
The Black Cats boss is keen to add six quality new signings as he looks to avoid a repeat of last season’s struggles.
The first wave of players were due back in pre-season training today.
Sunderland have agreed a loan fee of £2.5m for Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson, but the right-back is also wanted by West Ham, who remain the favourites to sign him.
The squad will be put through their paces today with a series of intense fitness tests ahead of the opening pre-season game against Darlington 1883 next Thursday, July 9.
Players who have been on international duty over the summer, including captain John O’Shea, have been given an extended break before returning to the Academy of Light ahead of the tour to the US and Canada.