SWANSEA boss Michael Laudrup has tellingly refused to rule out a January exit for Danny Graham, as Sunderland strive to bring the striker back to the North East.
The Black Cats are firmly in the hunt for £5m-rated Graham to add to the imminent arrival of French midfielder Alfred N’Diaye, who will continue talks on Wearside today.
Aston Villa, Reading and particularly QPR are also interested in the 27-year-old, but the pull of a move to Wearside for the Chester-le-Street-born frontman has put Sunderland in pole position.
Graham, who netted 12 times in the Premier League last season, has scored in each of his last three games for the Swans, but had previously started just once in 14 encounters for Laudrup’s side.
And although Laudrup has been unequivocal in issuing a hands-off warning for 13-goal Michu this month, he was less definitive over Graham, prior to tonight’s Capital One Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea.
“I haven’t heard anything about anyone not being here,” said Laudrup.
“Danny is in our squad for the game, of course.
“Apart from that, I don’t want to talk about transfers.
“I know it is January and you will ask me questions all through this month, but I think the game against Chelsea is so important for us that we should not talk about anything apart from Chelsea.
“It’s a huge game for the players, for the club — for all of us.”
Sunderland have been looking to add fresh blood up front this month. The Wearsiders were interested in a loan deal, with a view to a permanent switch, for French striker Loic Remy – a pursuit that has now ended, with neighbours Newcastle along with German outfits Borussia Dortmund and Schalke chasing the Marseille striker.
And although Graham is in a similar mould to top scorer Steven Fletcher, Martin O’Neill is mindful that his attacking ranks will be reduced at the end of the season.
Louis Saha’s one-year deal expires in the summer, as does the contract of Fraizer Campbell, who remains a January target for Hull City.
Neither player are expected to be offered an extension to their stays at the Stadium of Light, leaving O’Neill with just Fletcher, Connor Wickham and Stephane Sessegnon as forward options.
Graham, a former Middlesbrough team-mate of Sunderland pair Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson, would offer an affordable option up front and has proved his prowess in the Premier League after working his way up through the divisions with Carlisle and Watford.
He will not be the first January arrival on Wearside though, with France Under-21 international N’Diaye closing in on completing his move from Turkish outfit Bursaspor.
N’Diaye arrived at the Academy of Light yesterday afternoon after Sunderland agreed a fee of around £3.8million for the 22-year-old.
There is a chance that N’Diaye could be signed in time for Saturday’s visit of West Ham United, with neither personal terms or a medical likely to prove a major hurdle.
But Sunderland will need to get international clearance and that could delay the move prior to the noon registration deadline on Friday, to be eligible for the weekend’s encounter.