SWANSEA have not given up hope of keeping unsettled Ki Sung-Yueng, despite the former Sunderland loanee looking increasingly likely to leave the Liberty Stadium this summer.
Aston Villa are quietly confident that they are on the verge of signing the South Korean superstar after making contact with his agent at the weekend,
Ki is entering the last year of his contract at the Welsh outfit and is thought to fancy a move after spending the whole of last season on loan at the Stadium of Light.
The Swans could lose the cultured midfielder for nothing next season, having paid Celtic £6m for him in 2012 and if pressed, are likely to cut their losses and try to recoup some of that fee.
But despite the 25-year-old falling out of favour at Swansea under former manager Michael Laudrup, new manager Garry Monk is believed to be keen to see whether Ki could be reintegrated into the Swans’ squad.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins revealed: “We want him to come back after his break and sit down with Garry for a chat.
“Garry has spoken to him already, but it’s important that they have another chat and we will decide on where we go after that.
“Ideally, we would like to tie Ki up on a long-term contract. There’s no hiding from that.”
Ki though might have other ideas and Swansea will struggle to hold on to a player whose head may be turned by Villa’s interest.
Villa boss Paul Lambert is believed to be hopeful of pushing a deal through within the week.
A fee as little as £1.5m has been mentioned for a player who was rated in the £4m bracket at the start of last season and who went on to impress at the Stadium of Light, where he spent the whole of the 2013-14 campaign.
But any dropping price may well reflect the fact that the South Korean superstar is entering the last 12 months of his contract, is on big wages at the Liberty Stadium and has not been overly receptive to Swansea’s overtures.
Ki was an important influence in Sunderland’s relegation battle last season and having revelled in first-team football at the Stadium of Light is likely to fancy a fresher challenge than a return to the Liberty.
Even a bargain basement price though is not sure to tempt Sunderland boss Gus Poyet to enter the bidding.
The Uruguayan raved about the former Celtic man’s ability on the ball when he first arrived at the Stadium of Light last October, using him as a holding midfielder around which the team revolved.
But Ki’s form dipped markedly after Sunderland’s Capital One Cup final defeat at the start of March.
And with the 25-year-old unavailable for the closing couple of months of the season with tendonitis, Poyet found a better and more effective system in his absence, with Lee Cattermole outstanding in Ki’s former role and Liam Bridcutt acting as an able deputy.
Poyet’s interest looks to have cooled as a result.
Villa meanwhile have openly admitted that they are looking to recruit a ball-playing holding midfielder this summer and the South Korean clearly fits that bill.
If Ki does join Villa, he will link up with two men who also have strong Sunderland connections - former Black Cats’ boss Roy Keane, now Lambert’s deputy, and former long-serving utility player Kieran Richardson, who moved to Villa Park from Fulham last week in a £600,000 deal.
Richardson says he is looking forward to working again with Keane after spending just over two of his five years on Wearside serving under the Irishman.
The 29-year-old said: “That season when I signed for Sunderland I didn’t play many games because I had a hairline fracture in my spine.
“Throughout that season I was very upset, I put on a lot of weight and I got bigger.
“But just before the end of that season, Roy took me into his office and we had a massive conversation.
“He inspired me to go away in the summer and come back in better shape than I had ever been in and I went and played very well in the next season.
“He gave me some good words of encouragement to go and do that over the summer and I appreciate that.”