Sunderland locked in Stewart Downing talks – but any deal is still a long way off

Stewart Downing
Stewart Downing
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Sunderland are in talks with West Ham over signing England ace Stewart Downing – but any deal remains some way off.

The Black Cats are keen to add a winger to their squad this summer and Downing is high on their shortlist.

The former Middlesbrough star is believed to be keen on a return to the North East.

However, Sunderland are still some way from completing a deal, with discussions only at an early stage.

Downing could be available for around £6million but must wait to see if he Is part of new Hammers boss Slaven Bilic’s plans. The arrival of Marseille’s France international Dimitri Payet on a five-year contract could put pressure on Downing’s place.

The 30-year-old enjoyed a renaissance last season, and forced his way back into the England squad after more than a two-year absence, playing against Scotland in November’s friendly at Celtic Park.

It was Downing’s 35th cap, and he operated in an central role, rather than on the flanks after impressing for West Ham in that position in the early part of the season.

His versatility is an attraction for Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat, who wants to add more creativity to the Black Cats’ midfield, both centrally and in the wide areas.

Will Buckley has failed to impress, while Adam Johnson’s future remains uncertain.

Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe were also used on the left wing last season, but neither would be as comfortable there as Downing.

The Teessider had a spell on loan at Sunderland in 2003, and was an instant hit with three goals in seven appearances.