The state of play assessed as Sunderland, Wolves and Dion Sanderson weigh up next steps

Sunderland have again been linked with a summer move for last season's loan star Dion Sanderson.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:14 pm

According to the Daily Mail, the Black Cats saw an opening offer of around £1 million rebuffed, with the report adding that Wolves were seeking to double that before sanctioning a departure.

Here, Phil Smith runs through the key questions in play and offers his take on what might happen next as the three parties weigh up their options...

Are Sunderland likely to be interested?

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Dion Sanderson made a major impression during his season-long loan at Sunderland
Dion Sanderson made a major impression during his season-long loan at Sunderland

Sanderson made a major impression during his loan spell, and the back injury that brought a premature end to his campaign was seen by many behind the scenes as one of the defining moments in Sunderland's failure to win promotion.

Head coach Lee Johnson was reluctant to discuss the youngster's long-term future during that stint, mindful of the fact that he remained very much a contracted Wolves player.

However, he was effusive in his praise and strongly hinted that they would look to be part of the conversation should there be on.

"Dion is ours in the short-term, but part of our job is to help develop him for Wolves," Johnson said in February.

"If he stays on at Wolves then of course we will wish him all the best but, of course, if he doesn't stay there then a club like us would be interested in a young talent like Dion."

Is Sanderson likely to be available this summer & is he likely to be open to a move?

The starting point for Dion Sanderson when asked about his future this season has always been that his long-term ambition is to play for his boyhood club in the Premier League.

In March, he told Wolves' club website: "If the opportunity to play for Wolves presented itself, I would take it.

“I definitely see myself in the Premier League. I just have to keep my standards high for myself - that’s my aspiration and where I want to be.”

Sanderson is currently recuperating at Wolves ahead of pre-season and in the short term, he clearly faces a significant battle for senior football.

Under Nuno Espirito Santo he was down the immediate pecking order as he took his first steps in senior football on loan, and under new head coach Bruno Lage his task has arguably become even more difficult.

The club have recruited Yerson Mosquera from Atletico Nacional, and the talented 20-year-old is expected to go straight into the senior group.

With Conor Coady, Max Kilman, Willy Boly, Roman Saiss and Ki-Jana Hoever already on the books, competition is fierce.

Sanderson's status is further complicated by the fact that his current contract has just one year left to run.

That goes some way to explaining why there has been such significant speculation this summer, and why the Premier League side would no doubt listen to offers ths summer.

However, Sanderson's Premier League ambitions mean that they remain in a relatively strong position, particularly if there is second-tier interest.

As such, any suggestion of a cut-price deal would seem a little premature at this stage.

Wolves rate Sanderson highly and know that there is always demand for a player of his age, athleticism and composure.

How much competition will Sunderland realistically face?

Were Sanderson to be available, either for loan or transfer, then the competition would be significant and that is almost certainly another factor to take into consideration.

It's understood that Sanderson is a long-term target of Sheffield United, who are looking to make adjustments to their squad as they aim for a tilt at Championship promotion.

Their interest is complicated by the fact that Slavisa Jokanovic has just taken over from Chris Wilder, and will likely take time to assess his squad and therefore his transfer options.

However, he is expected to continue with Wilder's preferred 3-5-2 shape and so extra depth at centre back will be a must.

Sanderson's qualities in that system are obvious, and indeed were seen last season.

Sanderson developed a strong bond with Sunderland and its supporters, but will be a player in demand and with big decisions to make if he was indeed to leave Wolves.

Are Sunderland willing to spend significant fees under Kyril Louis-Dreyfus?

Up to a point.

Louis-Dreyfus has been keen to stress that Sunderland will not attempt to spend their way to success and in a post-season interview with talkSPORT, had this pointed response when asked that very question: "First and foremost we need to support it as we have done over the last four months to cover the significant losses that every football club is having right now due to the pandemic.

"It’s our responsibility to sustain the club through this difficult period, and hopefully when this financially difficult period will end we will be able to invest in some more long-term assets - and not just like now when we’re covering losses.”

Johnson has spoken of operating on a slightly reduced wage budget next season (albeit from a very, very high level in League One terms), and so significant spending is not expected.

However, in signing Ross Stewart Sunderland showed that they are prepared to spend fees when they believe the player in question could grow their value further on Wearside.

More generally, their aim is to reduce the average age of the squad and to align it more closely with the high-intensity playing philosophy.

Very obviously, then, Sanderson perfectly fits the profile for the kind of player that Sunderland would look to invest in, if the terms were right for all parties.

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