SUNDERLAND are on the verge of signing former Czech Under 21 defender Ondrej Celustka on a season-long loan, with the move expected to go through today or tomorrow at the latest.
Talks for the 24-year-old, who plays for Turkish side Trabzonspor have reached an advanced stage swiftly.
And there are not expected to be any late glitches in bringing in a player who would be the Black Cats 10th signing of the summer.
Sunderland turned their attention to the former Slavia Prague right-back after the collapse of prolonged efforts to bring Velez Sarsfield full-back Gino Peruzzi to the Stadium of Light.
The Argentine failed a medical at the end of last month, forcing Sunderland into a rethink and Celustka has emerged as the answer to Paolo Di Canio’s request for an attack-minded full-back capable of regularly going past his winger.
Celustka can play anywhere along the back line but his preferred position is right-back and that’s where Sunderland intend to deploy him.
The 6ft 1in defender’s biggest strengths are his pace and his technique and Sunderland will hope that he is the player capable of making the overlapping runs that will free up and bring the most out of right-winger Adam Johnson.
Celustka started his career at hometown club FC Tescoma Zin before moving to Slavia Prague in 2009.
He made 41 appearances there before joining Trabzonspor in 2011 - going on to make 55 appearances for the Turkish outfit.
Should he complete his move to the Stadium of Light in time to be involved in training, he has a chance of making his debut against Fulham in the season-opener this weekend - given that Craig Gardner is suspended for the opening match of the campaign.
Bringing in a natural right-back would certainly be a boost to the squad but Sunderland have had to fight to put themselves in pole position for the Czech’s signature, with both Crystal Palace and Turkish side Antalyaspor also offering him options.
Celustka himself was quoted in the Turkish media last week confirming: “Antalyaspor wanted me, but my goal is to play in England.
“For this reason I did not accept the offer.
“The teams you are talking about as being interested in me, (Sunderland and Crystal Palace), are accurate - there could be tangible developments in the coming days.”
Should Celustka arrive, that could have knock-on implications for Craig Gardner’s position at the club.
Gardner is in the last year of his contract at the Stadium of Light and can go if the right offer comes in for him.
The Brummie has been happy at Sunderland and developed a bond with fans and he would be happy to stick it out and see if he could play his way back into Di Canio’s plans again at Sunderland.
But if Celustka signs and becomes immediate first-choice at Sunderland, Gardner is likely to prefer a move away, rather than face the prospect of months of in-action on the sidelines.