SUNDERLAND have opened contract talks with Steed Malbranque with a view to extending the 31-year-old’s stay at the Stadium of Light beyond next season.
The Belgian-born French international has enjoyed an Indian summer to his Sunderland career since Steve Bruce switched him over from the right wing to the left at the back end of last season.
And he has flourished further in the current campaign with the club often giving him a roving role in a five-man midfield – a tactic which proved particularly effective earlier in the season.
Now the club is looking to persuade Malbranque to commit himself to a new deal with chairman Niall Quinn revealing that tentative talks have already started.
“We’re talking to him about a new deal which will keep him here longer,” said Quinn.
“He’s a great asset, he’s got great skill and he’s someone we want with us.
“When he gets that ball, he’s like a corkscrew with the way he spins and twists.
“He’s got such great skill and it’s great for our fans that we have a player like that at the club and hopefully he’ll be here longer now.”
Malbranque was signed from Tottenham Hotspur by Roy Keane in 2008 as the Irishman looked to build a squad that could hold its own in the Premier League.
Supporters have enjoyed the midfielder’s silky skills and ability to pick a pass but it looked for a while under Steve Bruce that he would be on his way out of the club.
The new manager was not initially convinced about the effectiveness of Malbranque or his commitment to the cause.
But a bust-up last year over the player breaking a curfew, for which he was fined, also led to clear the air talks which saw Malbranque regain his focus.
Some of his performances since then on the left-wing have been dazzling and had a particularly effective first half of the season playing in a free role in a five-man midfield.