An article this week in The Journal claimed that Sunderland scouts had been given the task of finding 'bargains' around Europe, seeking out players who are young, capable and nearing the end of their contracts so that we might be able to snag them at a more realistic price.
The remit specified that they had to be under 22-years of age. Whether or not this is in anyway true, we have no idea, however if it is the case it would represent a departure for Martin O'Neill's usual transfer approach, and an interesting one at that, given he's tended to go for older, more known quantities.
So given the fact we've played Football Manager extensively, like many other folks on the internet, that makes us impeccable scouts ourselves, so if indeed Sunderland are looking at players under 22, nearing the end of their contact around Europe, here's a little short list we've drawn up...
Despite the fact they are nearing the end of their contracts, there's some very exciting talent available. This should in theory make them more available, but no doubt their current employers would still be looking for a pretty penny.
Over in France where them up the road have found recent success, there's some outstanding talent available, but the likes of Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko and Sochaux winger Ryad Boudebouz would still be commanding fees expected to be over £7m in my eyes. The fact remains though, they're very good players.
Boudebouz is a left winger, and while not a great position of need, should be one we look at given that beyond James McClean, we're very, very thin at the position. The French-born Algerian international has previously been courted by both Newcastle and Liverpool, and recently admitted that following the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season, he will be on the move.
Last season the 21-year old netted six goals and added five assists, while contributing with plenty of goals and assists in his previous season as a starter too.
Sissoko is a different type of player, a more 'box-to-box' central midfielder, and again has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool, however upheaval at the managers position and behind the scenes at Anfield might put paid to that move, putting other clubs on alert. He doesn't always get the goals his performances merit, but can get up and down the pitch and be more of a threat than Lee Cattermole at the moment, not to mention a much better disciplinary record than our captain. According to our French correspondent and Toulouse dweller, Dan Williams, Yaya Toure-lite. Who wouldn't take that?
Over to Russia and it's former states, Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko is another who has been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League, namely Arsenal, but as yet no move, so he's still up for grabs.
Hailed by many observers as the best player currently in Ukrainian football, and even more so by his own personal hero, Andriy Shevchenko who said of Yarmolenko "He is one of the best of the new generation. He has a rare combination of physical strength and football intelligence", and praise doesn't come much higher than that.
Last season Napoli bid £10m for his services, which was rejected out of hand by the club, but now with only a year remaining on his deal, that price might be more workable. He'd add a tremendous threat for us anywhere across the attacking midfield positions, and would be a huge coup.
In nearby Russia, Tomas Necid of CSKA is also an interesting proposition. The striker fits the mold of the fabled Martin O'Neill style striker; a big unit who scores goals; 6 foot 3 inches, and 19 goals in 66 league starts is a decent return for a 22-year old. He moved to Russia as a teen for close to £3.5m, and is likely to be around double that now.
Those are all quite highly priced, highly sought after and likely to be off our radar, so don't get too carried away in thinking we're about to sign any, although stranger things have happened. In the more mid-priced range, sort of circa £5m, there's some intriguing options too.
The most highly priced of these would likely be Ghanaian international Jordan Ayew of Marseille. Son of the legendary Abedi Pele, and brother of the equally highly-regarded Andre Ayew, who also plays for Marseille.
Jordan is less accomplished than his older brother, but is still an exciting prospect and likely to develop into a top quality striker. Many will point at his lack of goals, but his game is about more than that. With his speed, he's a constant threat, and is excellent at creating space and bringing others into play.
Sticking with the Ghanaian theme, according to the site we've looked at, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu of Udinese is approaching the end of his contract, and I for one would be delighted to see him at the club. A holding midfielder primarily, he uses the ball well, is strong in the tackle. Perhaps a lower-priced version of the previously mentioned Moussa Sissoko, he previously had trials at Middlesbrough and Wolves prior to signing with Udinese, where he has developed into a very good player.
Peniel Mlapa could also be an option. The German striker of Togolese birth currently plays for Hoffenheim, and was linked in January with a move to Everton for close to £3m. The 6 foot 4 inch striker has been a bit shy of goals, but that's expected to come with a bit more experience, and has played very well for Germany at youth level, where he has represented them all age groups. He's often been compared to, perhaps lazily given his birthplace, Emmanuel Adebayor, but that type of striker could excel in our system.
21-year old Dutch winger Luciano Narsingh is also nearing the end of his contract with Heerenveen, although is likely to find himself at a bigger name given he's on the fringes of the Dutch national team. Still, the right-sided midfielder's directness and skill could be a great alternative to Seb Larsson.
A winger we've more chance of landing is much closer to home, Blackpool's Matt Phillips, who has been previously linked to the club and his contract is expiring next season. With the Tangerines failing to get back to the Premier League at the first time of trying, there's a chance their star man might be ready to move on.
Another prestigious homegrown talent could be Crewe Alexandra youngster Nick Powell, although we'd have stiff competition given that earlier in the week it was reported that a move to Manchester United was imminent for the creative midfielder, with the fee suggested to be around £4m.
At the cheaper end of the scale, players such as Portsmouth's utility man Joel Ward could be a useful squad player given his competence at right-back, centre-back and in midfield, and could be nabbed for next to nothing with the clubs financial problems.
Other defenders that could hit the market include Ajax defender and son of the legendary Danny, Daley Blind who has done well at the Amsterdam side, predominantly at right-back, although has been unable to hold on to a regular place in the starting lineup.
While over in Spain, there has been lots of talk about Barcelona B defender Sergi Gomez, who's reputation is growing in Cataluna, but could see his route to the first team blocked for the foreseeable future. Another player across in Europe with talent and plenty to prove is Lens midfielder and brother of Eden, Thorgan Hazard. Belgian Under-17 manager Bob Browaeys said of Hazard junior, that he's the best player to come through the set-up since his slightly older brother. He could be a great snag at an early age.
All in all, there's a very healthy crop of talent available if indeed The Journal's report is correct, so hopefully some exciting times are on the horizon for the club. We only need one or two to do a bit of a McClean and the next time we head to Europe we'll be playing there!