SUNDERLAND will fly out to Portugal later today when Danny Graham will be among those left behind looking for a new club.
Black Cats boss Gustavo Poyet has informed a number of his players that they are not in his plans for next season, meaning the likes of Graham can focus on securing a move away from the Stadium of Light.
The 28-year-old has interested Middlesbrough, Watford, Leicester and Burnley but a deal is complicated by a £1m asking price as well the wages he is entitled to over the remaining two years of his contract.
Poyet does not want the Gateshead-born front-man to be part of his squad next season and has given him the biggest sign yet of his decision, by omitting him from the squad list flying to the Algarve.
It is hoped an agreement can be reached with a would-be suitor before Sunderland return from Portugal on Monday week, although it is growing increasingly likely that he will leave on a further loan rather than permanently. Talks will continue, however, to ensure it is the former.
Middlesbrough are still the most likely destination, but they are also working on a deal for Genk’s Jelle Vossen, who has been their preferred attacking option for more than a year.
“Danny has had a spasm in his back. He hasn’t trained for five days. I had wanted to play him one of the two games this week, but I will tell you now that I am not taking all of the squad to Portugal and there are players staying behind,” said Poyet.
“Danny is one of those. I’m taking between 18-20 players with me. I didn’t want to do it, but I had a decision to make. There are players who will have a chance to be part of the squad and there are players who are not.
“It will be difficult for them to be part of it. We have Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore, Connor Wickham and if Fabio (Borini) came in then Fabio too.
“It would be difficult for Danny to be part of that group of forwards. There are others too in the same situation. It’s a matter of getting the right balance and quantity of options for each position. They are still getting paid, they are still training and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately that’s life.”
After allowing Ignacio Scocco to join Newells Old Boys, Poyet knows it is vital that one more forward comes in – and Borini is still preferred choice.
The Italian, however, has continued to stall over a decision to move to Wearside after a £14m fee was agreed with Liverpool and the Sunderland boss is ready to target alternatives if he does not get more positive vibes about a deal.
The situation was not helped on Wednesday night when Borini fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Liverpool’s friendly defeat to Roma in Boston. Reds boss Brendan Rodgers suggested afterwards it was ‘bruising’ although there are fears he could have dislocated it like he once did earlier in his Anfield career.
Poyet knows time is running down towards the start of the Premier League season at West Brom on August 16 and he does not want to wait until near that date to add to his squad. He would prefer to have more new signings play in pre-season friendlies in Portugal with Recreativo de Huelva, CD Nacional and Vitoria Setubal.
He said: “We need a left-back, we need the pace from last year, we need a couple of midfielders too after losing Craig Gardner, Ki Sung-Yueng and Jack Colback, so there are things we need to do. It is difficult for me to do because I would like them in Portugal. It would be a shame if we go through this week without them.”
Fiorentina’s Marcos Alonso is still the man wanted to come back to play left-back after his successful loan last season, while Atletico Madrid winger Cristian Rodriguez has been targeted for a reported £4m fee and young Crewe forward Max Clayton has impressed during a trial period. Feelers have been put out in a number of other areas too.
Poyet has only landed free agents Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez since the end of last season. He has lost more than that, though, so the Sunderland squad is weaker than the one which narrowly avoided relegation.