SUNDERLAND are pulling out all the stops to sign Adam Johnson – and will not be beaten on either the transfer fee or wages.
But the two other clubs chasing the Manchester City winger are both top-eight sides and the fear is that the 25-year-old might see them as better options for his future.
Johnson might want to join a side who are playing European football this season.
Sunderland must hope that manager Martin O’Neill’s long-term ambitions and, perhaps, the pull of his native North East, will convince the Easington-born midfielder to return home.
The Echo understands that a total of FIVE Premier League clubs initially matched Manchester City’s £10m asking price for a player the Blues signed from Middlesbrough in 2010 in a £7m deal.
Since then, the player has rejected the overtures of two of the five but has not, so far, rebuffed Sunderland’s interest.
Black Cats chairman Ellis Short is prepared to agree a financial deal which would satisfy the player’s demands while at the same time meeting City’s valuation.
The identity of the other two clubs Sunderland are now battling against is not entirely clear – Spurs, Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle have been linked with an interest in the player.
But Spurs are believed to be the club in pole position with new manager Andre Villas-Boas looking to put his own stamp on the squad.
The signing of Johnson would certainly send out a signal that AVB means business as Spurs look to challenge for a Champions League place.
Sunderland, though, will continue to battle for a player who came within a whisker of joining them under Steve Bruce, only for the Black Cats to be blown out of the water by Manchester City’s 11th hour swoop.
The move to Eastlands suited both Johnson and City at the time but the winger has not been getting regular games under Roberto Mancini.
Johnson wants his future resolved, believing his bit-part involvement in Manchester City’s Premier League winning campaign cost him his international place.
“I will be speaking to him about my situation,” he said, referring to Mancini. “There’s been no bust-up. But I think what happened to me at City last season was why I missed out at the Euros.”
Sunderland have also far from given up hope of landing striker Steven Fletcher, despite Wolves’ fight to up the selling price.