SUNDERLAND are looking to sign Santiago Vergini permanently with Gus Poyet admitting the centre-half could be key to his plans of squad rebuilding this summer.
The 25-year-old joined Sunderland on loan from Argentine side Estudiantes in January, making 14 appearances in total and showing he was equally as comfortable at right-back as he was at centre-half.
And it is that versatility which Poyet has identified as central to creating the right balance in his preferred squad.
The Uruguayan explained: “In any squad, if we play 4-3-3 – my system – I like to have three goalkeepers and seven defenders, NOT eight,”
“I want two players for each place in the other positions, but not at the back – I like to use that extra player somewhere else, so you can have a squad of 23.
“If one of the defenders can give you the option to play somewhere else, it helps you.
“When you’ve got a centre-half who is only a centre-half, you need a full-back who can play both sides.
“When you’ve got a centre-back who can play right-back, it gives you a big hand and I know Santiago can play there now.
“I knew it, having watched him play right-back in Argentina, but he has also shown now he can do it well in the Premier League.”
The recent departure of right-back Phil Bardsley to Stoke City has only enhanced the potential importance to a squad which currently finds itself without an established full-back with Andrea Dossena having been released and Marcos Alonso and Ondrej Celustka having, like Vergini, finished their loans.
The acquisition of utility man Vergini on a permanent deal would give Poyet scope to increase his first-team options elsewhere.
And the loose arrangement made when he was was first signed in the January transfer window was that a permanent deal would be looked at if Sunderland stayed up and Vergini showed he could perform in English football.
Both those criteria have been met.
But Poyet says that while he hopes Vergini will consider committing his future to Sunderland, it is not something that can be taken for granted.
“It’s something to analyse,” he told SportMail. “Every situation is different.
“We just have to see what happens, we don’t know if he’s got an offer elsewhere.”