SUNDERLAND are ready to turn up the heat in their pursuit of Lazio defender Modibo Diakite after securing their Premier League status, according to reports in Italy.
French centre-half Diakite has been linked with a move to Wearside for several weeks, as Sunderland look for cost-effective quality on the Continental market.
The 26-year-old is out-of-contract at Lazio in the summer and that has alerted Napoli, Juventus and several Russian clubs to his availability on a Bosman deal.
But reports from Serie A suggest Sunderland have identified the 6ft 4in Diakite as a prime target and will look to make progress on the deal over the next week, with the threat of relegation now over.
Milan-based agent Roberto De Fanti, expected to be confirmed as Sunderland’s new director of football, has been working on identifying players on the Continent since taking on a consultancy role with the Black Cats.
Portugese winger Diogo Viana has been targeted, while French centre-half Valentin Roberge is close to sealing a Bosman move from Portugese outfit Maritimo.
While Diakite is another central defender, Sunderland require several additions in that area, with Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble leaving when their contracts expire in the summer and on-loan Kader Mangane returning to parent club Al-Hilal.
Diakite has made 83 appearances for Lazio since arriving from fellow Italian outfit Pescara in 2006, where he had come through the club’s ranks.
But he has been unused by the Italian giants this season after losing his place through injury, and agent Ulisse Savini said earlier this month how Diakite would be keen on a move to Sunderland.
“If they call us, we would be honoured to speak with them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blue Square Premier outfit Grimsby Town are chasing Sunderland youngster Billy Knott.
The 20-year-old has spent the bulk of the campaign on loan at Conference side Woking and that has alerted the Mariners to the midfielder, who recently penned a year-long extension to his Sunderland deal.