SUNDERLAND have missed out on the third Bosman signing they were chasing – Lorient midfield star Morgan Amalfitano.
The 26-year-old has agreed to join Champions League outfit Marseille on a long-term deal, thwarting Steve Bruce’s plans to lure one of the hottest properties in French football to Wearside.
The Echo revealed last month that the Black Cats had targeted three Bosman signings – two from England, one from abroad – with the English players being midfielder Seb Larsson at Birmingham City and goalkeeper Keiren Westwood at Coventry City.
The foreign Bosman was unnamed as Bruce tried to sign the highly-rated midfielder from under the noses of several chasing English clubs, fully aware that Arsenal and Aston Villa were among the clubs also keeping tabs on one of the success stories of French football last season.
Amalfitano scored five goals from midfield as he helped Ligue One minnows Lorient to a mid-table finish but he also supplied 13 assists to team-mates, including Newcastle target 22-goal Kevin Gameiro.
He was one of the most hotly coveted Bosmans in Europe and had been expected to move to the Premier League this summer.
But the offer from Didier Deschamps’ Marseille appealed to the Nice-born player and Sunderland accepted his desire to remain in France and join the Ligue One runners-up, who will be competing in the Champions League again in the new season.
Bruce will be disappointed to miss out on a footballer who he believed could be a key figure for Sunderland next season.
He had his scouting team watch Amalfitano on numerous occasions and even made a journey over to Brittany towards the end of last season to run the rule over the midfielder in person – though the rest of the media thought he was watching team-mate Gameiro.
Bruce was convinced that Amalfitano had the class to take Sunderland forward next season – something which was borne out by a club the size of Marseille’s successful pursuit.
But the fact that Sunderland were in for a player being chased by a posse of top European clubs, reinforces the point that the manager is ambitious to bring genuine star quality to the Stadium of Light this summer.