Sunderland have stepped up their hunt for summer signings by watching Austrian international stars – for a FOURTH time.
Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce is keen to push through his transfer business quickly as he looks to remodel a squad which only just avoided relegation last term.
And he sent first-team scout Gordon Chisholm to watch Austria’s friendly against Holland in Vienna on Saturday night.
Chisholm, the former Sunderland centre-half, was joined by scouts from Everton and Arsenal at the game, which Holland won 2-0, with Newcastle United midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum on target.
Wijnaldum has been linked with a move to Everton, should Southampton boss Ronald Koeman take charge on the Toffees.
But it was the Austrian players that Sunderland were keeping tabs on, having sent scouts to three of their games during the 2015-16 campaign.
The Echo revealed back in March that Sunderland had representatives at Austria’s clash with Turkey, as well as taking in a couple of their Euro 2016 qualifiers in the Autumn.
Allardyce is understood to be a fan of Austrian centre-halves Martin Hinteregger and Aleksandar Dragovic, having been linked with both during his time as West Ham United manager.
Dynamo Kiev star Dragovic started Saturday’s game against Holland, and has been linked with a £12million move to both the Premier League and Bundesliga this summer.
Champions Leicester City were understood to be close to signing the 25-year-old in January before Kiev decided to keep hold of one of their prize assets.
However, he looks set to move this summer and admitted he will weigh up his future after the Euro 16 finals.
Dragovic said: “The Bundesliga is currently probably the best league in the world. But if suddenly an Italian, Spanish or English top club come around the corner, I would listen.
“I go where it is best for me. The perspective has to be right.
“I’m not in a better league, to sit on the bench or be stuck in a relegation battle. I want to play.”
Hinteregger spent the second half of the season on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach from Red Bull Salzburg, but the Germans decided against taking up an option to sign the defender permanently in a £7.5million deal.
Allardyce is keen to add another central defender to his ranks to provide competition for Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul, with John O’Shea expected to be used as cover once Wes Brown departs.
Austria could be one of the dark horses at the Euros, having topped their qualifying group ahead of Russia and Sweden, winning nine of their 10 games and keeping six clean sheets in the process.
Sunderland were linked with Crystal Palace right-back Martin Kelly over the weekend.