SUNDERLAND could make a return to the Italian market after being linked with Genoa right-back Sime Vrsalijko and Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic.
The Black Cats brought three players from Serie A last summer - Emanuele Giaccherini, Modibo Diakite and Andrea Dossena - all of whom have struggled to make the grade, albeit on-loan Fiorentina left-back Marcos Alonso proved to be a more successful capture in the January window.
New technical director Lee Congerton confirmed earlier this week that Sunderland would return to focusing on the domestic market under his watch, rather than concentrating their efforts on overseas recruits.
But reports in Italy today have suggested that Sunderland could bring in two Croatian internationals from Serie A next summer, if the Black Cats are still in the Premier League.
Attacking full-back Vrsalijko, who has been tracked by both Arsenal and Liverpool, has been mooted as a £5million target after an impressive first season in Italy.
The 22-year-old only joined Genoa last summer from Dinamo Zagreb in a £3.5m deal, but had attracted interest from Marseille and Inter prior to leaving his homeland.
A move for Kovacic looks to be far more of a long shot.
Inter splashed out around £12m in January 2013 in the belief that the creative midfielder would fulfil his potential at the San Siro, yet the 19-year-old has found himself confined to the fringes this season.
There was interest from Borussia Dortmund this January, although Inter insisted that he was not for sale.
But with Kovacic still only playing a bit-part role at Inter, his agent is looking to drum up interest from elsewhere.
Sunderland would face significant competition for Kovacic even if they did avoid relegation, with several Premier League clubs keeping a close eye on his situation.
The asking price would also be out of Sunderland’s reach, with Inter looking to recoup much of their investment, albeit they could sanction his departure on loan.
Sunderland are still open to looking at foreign recruits, despite Congerton looking to re-introduce a domestic-focused buying policy, with the club appointing ex-Holland international Hans Gillhaus as their new scout for the European market.