When Di Canio speaks of his desire to bring "an intelligent player with fantastic ability" who is a "specific player with specific characteristics" to Sunderland, just what exactly is it that he is looking for?
Given the strong links to Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone, it would seem he is a familiar blueprint upon which to base our considerations. Huddlestone has a great range of passing, capable of transitioning defence into attack with one ball. Sunderland's preseason so far suggests this is a particularly important quality, with Di Canio looking to press high up the pitch and move the ball forward efficiently and rapidly. With the Huddlestone deal seemingly dead, who else could fit the bill?
Toulouse midfielder Capoue has been the subject of an offer from Cardiff City in recent weeks and has attracted the interest of North London's Arsenal and Spurs as well as Atletico Madrid. Best described as an all rounder, the French man is capable with the ball at the feet, with an eye for a long range pass, whilst also able to mix it up defensively, which led to 7 bookings and a red card last season. Going forward, allied to his passing ability, he also has the ability to find the net, scoring 7 times in the league. Add to that his height and physique and it's easy to see why he would be an ideal fit for the Premier League. Given that Cardiff have already missed out on Victor Wanyama who opted for a move to Southampton, there is no reason that as an established top flight side Sunderland would not be capable of taking him from under the noses of the Welsh club. Capoue wants a move to enhance his bid for a place in France's 2014 World Cup squad, so it is safe to say he has the sort of hunger Di Canio is keen on.
Although QPR's squad suffered from a poisonous, divisive atmosphere last season, in amongst the mercenaries there were a number of players with quality. Esteban Granero arrived in West London from Spanish giants Real Madrid and was bafflingly either overlooked or misused out wide on the right on many occasions. The Spaniard may lack physical presence but he makes up for it in sheer ability and it should come as no surprise to see that Swansea City have been strongly linked with a move for him this summer with a cut price £2m deal mooted. Unfortunately, QPR are likely to have offered him a hefty contract to lure him to Loftus Road but if Swansea feel they can do a deal for the player, then Sunderland should have no problem competing for his signature. With whoever signs likely to play in place of Larsson, Granero's ability with dead balls would also come in very handy.
Spain's La Liga has proved to be a fertile market for English clubs of late with a number of Spanish sides struggling desperately from a financial perspective. Although flush from the sale of Falcao, Atletico Madrid are one such club and their young midfield schemer Koke has all of the attributes required to unlock Premier League defences. Even if Atletico were to bring in someone like Capoue, Koke probably would not be highest on their list of midfielders to sell given his age and ability. Added to that, Atletico are back in the Champions League next season and have just signed David Villa, so selling Sunderland to the player would not be easy. However, any incoming midfielders could unsettle him and of course the financial stability and offer of a good salary package could be enough to turn his head. In terms of quality, his 10 La Liga assists last season made him among the best creators in the division while his ability to play across the midfield add a useful versatility to his game. Although more than capable in attacking areas, he is strong defensively and like Granero a capable set piece taker.
Like Belgium but on a smaller scale, Switzerland has begun producing a number of quality young players of late, one of whom is Granit Xhaka. He currently plies his trade at Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Bundesliga. At 20 years of age, he has his best years ahead of him and recent talk in the press hints that he could be in line for a move during the close season, with his father openly talking of interest from Italy. Another player with height on his side and aerial ability, Xhaka is a strong passer of the ball, whilst also able to mix it defensively. He will want to add more goals to his game, having scored just once so far in German league games so far buta 20 yard strike in a friendly against Celtic on Sunday suggests he is capable of doing so.
Feyenoord midfielder dubbed "the new Xavi", Clasie is a 22 year old full Dutch international who as the moniker suggests, is an expert in possession of the ball. He recently revealed that he had turned down overtures from Fiorentina, claiming he wanted to stay with Feyenoord for the time being. He has also reportedly interested a number of big Premier League clubs, all of which suggests he would be difficult to obtain. Despite that, the fee has been mooted to be as low as £6m-7m. He is physically smaller than the other players mentioned here at 5'7" but if he lives up to his reputation, then it is unlikely to stop him from being a towering success.