Sunderland are hopeful of beating Liverpool to the signing of Clint Dempsey after opening talks with Fulham over a transfer.
United States international Dempsey has effectively gone on strike at Fulham, after telling manager Martin Jol he will not play for the club again, as he bids to force a transfer before Friday’s 11pm deadline.
But the 29-year-old has seen his preferred option – a move to Liverpool – collapse after the Reds failed to agree terms on a deal, before being reported to the FA for allegedly attempting to tap up the player over the summer.
The case has seen relations between Fulham and Liverpool become frosty, and any hopes of talks over Dempsey being resurrected now look slim.
That has prompted Sunderland to step in, with boss Martin O’Neil ready to offer the player an escape route – albeit not the one he wanted.
O’Neil opened talks with Fulham over the weekend over a deal, but they’ve since progressed and the club are ready to meet the asking price, thought to be around £8 million.
Premier League new boys West Ham have also made contact with London rivals Fulham, and told them they will meet the asking price, but Dempsey is not interested in their approach.
Sunderland will continue negotiations in the next 24 hours, but want a conclusion before Wednesday, or they will look elsewhere for reinforcements.
Versatile forward Dempsey, who scored 23 goals in 46 matches last season, has just 12 months left on his current contract.