SUNDERLAND would have to cough up a transfer fee for target Stoppila Sunzu after the Zambian international resolved his contract dispute.
The Echo revealed last week how Sunderland were running the rule over the highly-rated centre-half, who represented his country at last month’s African Cup of Nations.
Arsenal and Reading have also been monitoring Sunzu, with the 23-year-old training with the latter prior to the African Cup getting underway.
But Sunzu’s chances of a permanent move to the Madejski Stadium were scuppered when his club, Congolese outfit TP Mazembe, claimed he was under contract until 2015, while the player and his representatives argued he was a free agent.
The matter has now been clarified with Mazembe confirming the 6ft 3in Sunzu is under contract and they would require a fee close to their £4million asking price.
Owner Moise Katumbi said: “The matter has been resolved after we went through the contract with everyone and the player admitted his contract was still valid.
“The problem is that his handlers have been lying to him so that he rebels against us. We suspect they wanted to get all his transfer fees by declaring him a free agent.
“TP Mazembe is a professional club and we will never stand in the way of our players as long as the right procedure is followed.
“If there are any clubs interested in him, we won’t stop him from leaving but those clubs must talk to us.”
Sunderland are looking at potential central defensive recruits, with neither Titus Bramble or Matt Kilgallon expected to be handed new contracts in the summer, Kader Mangane only on loan, and doubts continuing to linger over the long-term future of Wes Brown after more than a year on the sidelines.
The Black Cats have been linked with Sunzu’s fellow African Cup competitor Efe Ambrose, despite the Nigerian’s torrid time for Celtic against Juventus in the Champions League last week.
And Ambrose, who is also said to be interesting Liverpool and Swansea, admits he would be keen on a move to the Premier League.
“I am happy to be linked with a club like Liverpool,” said the 24-year-old.
“My dream is to play across the border. The English League is the best, but I am happy at Celtic.”