Sunderland could soon have a boost for their January transfer kitty - courtesy of Sporting Lisbon.
The president of the Portuguese giants has said that it's "only a matter of time" before he makes Sebastian Coates's stay a permanent one.
Coates is a year into an 18-month loan stay at Sporting, who rate the central defender highly.
The 26-year-old made a switch to the Portugal capital last season after boss Sam Allarrdyce deemed him surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.
Sporting have said they have an option to buy the Uruguayan centre-back at the end of this season for £4.25m but Bruno de Carvalho has suggested that may happen sooner.
"Coates has a 5 million Euro option to buy [from Sunderland]," he is reported to have said.
"There's only a matter of time before he joins permanently."
The sooner the better for Sunderland, who are struggling to spend any cash in the transfer window, due to big debts and a salary figure close to its ceiling.
However a £4million-plus windfall from Lisbon and the removal of Coates off their wage bill would give boss David Moyes a little room for manouevre.
Coates joined Sunderland from Liverpool in the summer of 2015 for £2million.
The 6ft 5in defender made 32 appearances for the Black Cats before being moved on by Big Sam.
It was reported in the Echo in November that Italian giants AC Milan were interested in Coates.
The Serie A side were reported to be considering a £5million bid but Sporting and president Carvalho expect the player to be theirs.