SUNDERLAND are weighing up a swoop for Argentine centre-half Santiago Vergini as Gus Poyet continues to look to strengthen his squad this month.
Vergini has been linked with a move to Wearside in a cut-price move that would see the Black Cats buy out his contract for just £400,000.
The highly-rated 25-year-old won a national league title at Newell’s Old Boys last season before switching to Estudiantes de La Plata in the summer.
But after just five months at the club, Vergini is understood to be keen on a move to the Premier League, with reports in Argentina suggesting a deal has already been done that will see him sign for Sunderland.
Vergini starred for Newell’s under the guidance of boss Gerardo Martino, and was tipped to follow his mentor to Barcelona when Martino landed the manager’s job at the Nou Camp.
His performances earned him a call-up to the Argentina national squad, and Sunderland’s director of football Roberto De Fanti is known to have good contacts in South America.
An approach for Vergini would put question marks over the Sunderland futures of Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge and Carlos Cuellar.
Meanwhile, De Fanti is believed to have turned down a move for Argentina striker Ignacio Scocco, while Sunderland’s need for extra strike power has seen West Brom frontman Shane Long linked with the club in an exchange deal for Craig Gardner, who is out of contract this summer.
The striker hunt comes amid reports Steven Fletcher could be on his way out of the club, with Celtic and Hull mentioned as possible destinations.
Hull boss Steve Bruce, however, has rubbished reports they have put in an £8m bid for the Scotland international.
Former Black Cats boss Bruce already has one Sunderland striker in his ranks, Danny Graham who is on a season-long loan.
Bruce said: “I saw a story that we’d bid £8m for Steven Fletcher and I just thought, “where on earth have they got that from?”
“I haven’t got a clue where it’s come from.
“It’s no secret we want to improve up front.
“We’ve got a couple of irons in the fire and, if they come off, then it would be fantastic. It would give the squad a lift by adding a striker.”