West Ham eye swoop for Sunderland's Josh Maja and will send him back out on 18-month loan deal
West Ham United are keeping a close eye on Josh Maja - with a view to signing the Sunderland striker before loaning him back out.
Maja is out of contract at the end of the season, having turned down the offer of a new deal at the Stadium of Light.
The 20-year-old has been linked with a host of clubs in recent days, including Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, Celtic and Rangers.
West Ham are keen on adding the player to their ranks, however, and are prepared to loan Maja out for 18 months should they complete his signing.
Maja has scored 16 goals in his breakthrough season to showcase that he is capable of stepping up from League One, and the Hammers are understood to be keen to letting the player go out on loan to get more first-team experience, rather than play for their Under-23s.
That would interest Sunderland, with manager Jack Ross saying last week: "It's a potential option, a potential solution if you like.
"If he did go, then naturally we have to find a replacement at a time when we're also looking to strengthen in that area.
"I've had a similar situation with Lewis Morgan who signed for Celtic in January and was loaned back to St Mirren. It was a perfect scenario for me at that juncture.
"So it's something, because of Josh's age and how any purchasing could would view him, that it could be a potential option for us."
West Ham are believed to have made contact with Maja's agent, while Middlesbrough - who have long scouted the forward - are also keeping tabs on the situation.
LIVE: Sunderland AFC transfer news as Black Cats eye THREE additionsGerman trio Stuttgart, Cologne and Wolfsburg are also interested in Maja, who has been linked with a move to the Bundisliga, but the player himself still isn't completely sold on that idea and may prefer to stay in Britain.
A bid of £3million could be enough to secure his services this month. Sunderland would be entitled to compensation if Maja left on a free to an English club in the summer, but that figure would be reduced.