SUNDERLAND target Junior Hoilett looks set to join free-spending Queens Park Rangers over the next few days, forcing a rethink of the Black Cats’ transfer strategy.
The Blackburn Rovers attacker was high on the list of Martin O’Neill’s summer targets, with the 22-year-old’s pace, directness and invention capable of transforming Sunderland’s attacking options.
But the out-of-contract Canadian, the shining star of Rovers’ relegation season, is hot property in the game and there have been a host of other suitors for his signature.
As well as interest from Sunderland and local rivals Newcastle United, German side Borussia Monchengladbach made a determined move to take him to the Bundesliga and were confident they had got their man before being put off by wage demands of around £50,000 a week.
That’s a figure which would have been a sticking point for both the North-East clubs who are looking to reduce their wage bills wherever possible rather than expand them.
Such a weekly wage would be well in excess of anything anyone at Sunderland is on, but well within the range of Queens Park Rangers who are backing manager Mark Hughes’ rebuilding plans with vast amounts of cash.
The Londoners signalled their ambitions this week with the signing of Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, a player Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he did not want to leave Old Trafford.
The United boss said he would have liked to have kept the South Korean in his squad but because he could not guarantee him first-team football, did not want to stand in his way.
The £2m fee QPR paid would not break the bank of any Premier League club but the South Korean’s wages will be in the top bracket paid to Premier League players and with Rangers paying that sort of money, they are one of the few clubs capable of matching the demands of Hoilett’s representatives.
The player’s representatives and QPR have been involved in talks already and, as things stand, those talks are expected to reach a successful conclusion in the near future with Rangers prepared to consider the compensation figure of £4m Rovers are insisting on for a player they developed and brought through the ranks.
Should Hoilett’s move to QPR go through smoothly, Sunderland can be expected to increase their interest in Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady.
The 26-year-old Republic of Ireland international – who worked previously under O’Neill at Celtic – has made it clear he does not plan to sign a new contract with the Russian club.
And while he still has two years remaining on his current contract, Spartak may well be ready to cut a deal.
At one stage it was thought that Sunderland could be looking to recruit both Hoilett and McGeady but it is a case one or the other and with Hoilett expected to be wearing blue and white rather than red and white next season, McGeady’s situation will come into sharp focus.
The Black Cats, who released nine players at the end of last season and have also allowed George McCartney and Asamoah Gyan to leave too, have made one new signing so far – out-of-contract Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar joining his new team-mates for the start of pre-season training yesterday.
New faces will follow, but not immediately.
The club is in the market for a specialist left-back although the top priority remains improving Sunderland’s attacking options and efforts to bring in new attackers will go on.
But no new signings are currently imminent at the Stadium of Light.