Carlos Cuellar signs for Sunderland

NEW FACE ... Sunderland's Carlos Cuellar.
NEW FACE ... Sunderland's Carlos Cuellar.

CARLOS Cuellar was today confirmed as Sunderland’s first summer signing after the defender agreed a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light.

Free agent Cuellar put the final touches to his move to Sunderland over the weekend and was this morning unveiled as Martin O’Neill’s first permanent capture as Black Cats boss.

Cuellar, who turns 31 next month, has penned a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light after his Aston Villa contract reached its conclusion on Saturday.

There had been interest from the Spaniard’s homeland in taking the centre-half back to La Liga, with Malaga and Seville both keen on the former Rangers man.

But the latter were unable to match Sunderland’s offer and Cuellar was always keen on remaining in the Premier League.

The prospect of being reunited with Martin O’Neill only strengthened Sunderland’s hand after the Black Cats boss spent almost £8million to take Cuellar from Ibrox to Villa Park in 2008.

Cuellar was at the Academy of Light on Friday for talks and a medical, and his Bosman capture represents a major boost for O’Neill, who had been tracking him for several months.

The former Numancia and Osasuna man made 94 appearances for Villa, before the two parties agreed to go their separate ways at the end of last season.

The arrival of Cuellar comes at an opportune moment after the Wearsiders lessened the load on the payroll yesterday following McCartney’s permanent switch to West Ham.

McCartney spent last season on loan with the Hammers and was always likely to remain at Upton Park after successfully helping Sam Allardyce’s men seal a return to the Premier League.

The 31-year-old, who had a year remaining on his Sunderland contract, has signed a two-year deal and becomes the latest of the Black Cats’ unwanted players to leave the Stadium of Light.

Midfielder Cristian Riveros, along with nine out-of-contract players, left the club in May and there promises to be more departures, with Marcos Angeleri and Asamoah Gyan leading the queue of players heading for the exit door.

McCartney said: “I am delighted to be coming back to West Ham and this time on a permanent basis. It was great to be part of the side that won promotion for the club last season.

“It was a fantastic way to end the campaign last year and I am really looking forward to being back in the Premier League with West Ham.”

McCartney made 157 appearances for the Black Cats after coming through the youth system, before first moving to Upton Park in 2006.

Roy Keane brought the left-back back to the Stadium of Light for £4.5million in the summer of 2008, but he went on to start just 36 times in the top flight.

McCartney spent time on loan at Leeds United in 2010-11, before joining the Hammers on a temporary basis last year.

He may not be the last player to make the move from Wearside to East London either, with West Ham also keeping tabs on Sunderland duo Kieran Richardson and Ahmed Elmohamady.

SportMail understands that Allardyce is yet to follow up his interest in Elmohamady, though, despite the possibility of a season-long loan switch for the Egyptian.

Ideally, Elmohamady would like to remain at the Stadium of Light and fight for his place. But after playing just 91 minutes of Premier League football under O’Neill, the 24-year-old accepts he may need to leave Sunderland for a first-team spot.