SOTIRIOS Kyrgiakos is being courted by former employers AEK Athens after Sunderland rejected any prospect of signing the former Greek international on a permanent basis.
Kyrgiakos was one of three loan players shown the door by Sunderland earlier this month after his four-month spell at the Stadium of Light came to an end.
The 32-year-old was only ever going to be a stop-gap measure for the Black Cats after Martin O’Neill had been keen to land experienced, short-term solutions during the January transfer window.
But Kyrgiakos’ shaky displays during his four outings for Sunderland ruled out any question of the Black Cats keeping the central defender on Wearside.
The former Liverpool man has returned to parent club Wolfsburg, although he has been told that he has no future with the Bundesliga outfit despite having a year to run on his contract.
Kyrgiakos has made just seven appearances for Wolfsburg since moving from Anfield last summer and will be forced to make way for new signings a year after his arrival.
AEK are ready to offer Kyrgiakos an escape route with a return to the club which prompted his move to Liverpool after just a single season back in his homeland.
Kyrgiakos made only 20 appearances for AEK during an injury-hit 2008-09 campaign, yet impressed sufficiently to earn a two-year contract on Merseyside.
He is now at the top of AEK’s list of summer targets and a return to Greece would appeal to the ex-Rangers defender.
Sunderland’s disinterest in Kyrgiakos will not see them ignore the chance to strengthen the backline this summer though.
O’Neill is thought to be keen on recruiting a new centre half, with one of Titus Bramble, Matt Kilgallon or Michael Turner likely to make way.
Former Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar, who O’Neill paid almost £8million for in 2008, is rumoured to be one target after reaching the end of his contract at Villa Park.
Meanwhile, Sunderland continue to be linked with an interest in Manchester City winger Adam Johnson.
The Black Cats have been long-time admirers of the Easington-born wideman after being pipped to his signature by City, following his departure from Middlesbrough two-and-a-half years ago.
Johnson has been forced to play an increasingly marginalised role with the Premier League champions and his camp are thought to be interested in a potential move to Sunderland, with Newcastle also understood to be keeping tabs on the England man.
But wages remain a major barrier with the 24-year-old earning double the amount of Sunderland’s top earner.