Sunderland’s first-team squad is back in pre-season training and a second new signing is close to joining the ranks.
The Black Cats are favourites to sign Marco van Ginkel on a loan deal from Premier League champions Chelsea, with head coach Dick Advocaat also eyeing a move for Belgium defender Nicolas Lombaerts.
Van Ginkel, a 22-year-old midfielder, spent last season on loan at Italian giants AC Milan, but he is understood to be keen on a regular run of games in the Premier League.
And with the Dutchman unlikely to break into the Chelsea team, the Blues are willing to loan him out again.
Sunderland are leading the chase to sign the 5ft 9in creative pass-master – also linked with a move to Newcastle – as Advocaat looks to strengthen his central midfield options.
Highly-rated van Ginkel was an £8million signing for the Blues from Vitesse Arnhem in the summer of 2013 and has a strong pedigree.
It would be quite a coup if the club could attract van Ginkel to the North East and Advocaat’s Dutch links could prove to be key.
The bulk of the first team returned to training at the Academy of Light yesterday, with the players “enjoying” a round of fitness tests including ECG, ultrasound heart screening and the yo-yo bleep test under the watchful eye of Advocaat.
The Dutchman is keen to add quality to his ranks to avoid a repeat of last season’s battle against relegation.
And reports in Russia say the Black Cats are in talks with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg over a move for Belgium international defender Lombaerts.
The 30-year-old is well-known to the Dutch head coach having joined Zenit in 2007, when Advocaat was manager and he won the league in his first season at the club.
They have also worked together when Advocaat was in charge of the Belgian national team.
Strengthening the Black Cats’ defence remains a priority for Advocaat despite the arrival of Sebastian Coates, who has signed a four-year deal at Sunderland in a deal worth £2m from Liverpool.
The Black Cats are also reported to have stepped up their bid to sign Holland star Jeremain Lens.
Dynamo Kiev striker Lens is a player Advocaat knows well from their spell together at PSV Eindhoven and Sunderland could look to tie up a £8million swoop in the next week, as previously reported.
The 27-year-old operates on the left wing or through the middle and is seen as an ideal option for Sunderland ahead of the new season.