Crazy talk from Italy
Southampton are thought to be on the brink of signing Napoli striker Manolo Gabbiadini in a £15m deal, with add-ons which could bring the move in at a stonking total of £20m.
But now, Italian daily newspaper Corriere dello Sport has claimed Sunderland are seeking to hijack the deal and land the 25-year-old striker right from under the Saints' noses.
Notwithstanding Manolo's most suitable of surnames for a career at Sunderland, this one would be huge news for a club supposedly devoid of cash but who are in desperate need of a forward. There's likely little substance to it, but let's indulge ourselves for a moment.
With Jermain Defoe currently the only viable goalscorer at the club and Victor Anichebe ruled out for two to three months, David Moyes has a race on his hands to land a striker before the transfer window shuts at 11pm on Tuesday.
The most that observers might expect however is a budget or free face through the door to provide some cover in the event Defoe picks up an injury. Gabbiadini is on a different level to that however.
The striker, who can also play out wide, has been called up to the Italian national side on just six occasions, but he has a strike-rate of a goal every three games from spells at Napoli and Sampdoria.
Still only 25-years-old, the 6ft 1in centre-forward is hot property currently, with Everton amongst a host of other clubs tracking him.
Unlikely? Hell yeah; but recall, Sunderland are in possession of one player who Napoli would love to get their hands on right now - Fabio Borini. Could it just be possible?
Former Lorient boss: 'the departure of Ndong left a void'
Sylvain Ripoll knows Sunderland's Didier Ndong better than most. As former head coach of French club, Lorient, he gave the midfielder his first big break in European football.
Ripoll signed the Gabonese star when he was a 21-year-old prospect at Tunisian club, CS Sfaxien, and he managed Ndong at Lorient until his sale to Sunderland but was then sacked from his post in October.
Now, the 45-year-old coach - in an interview with BeIN Sports - has rued the loss of Ndong to Sunderland in the summer, and said that he believes it the sale was partly responsible for the decline in results which culminated in him losing his job. Ripoll had been at the Ligue 1 club for 22 years - first as a player and then manager.
Et Sylvain Ripoll en interview pour beIN: "On surfe sur la vague et on savoure"! pic.twitter.com/aIcl4AeroN— FC LORIENT (@FCLorient) December 7, 2013
Ndong's sale to Sunderland in the summer was big news in France and on Wearside. £14m for a young Lorient midfielder raised a few eyebrows - and continues to do so in England - as the player, who has just returned from African Cup of Nations duty, has struggled to find a level of consistency in the Premier League.
| Back in the fold... Didier Ndong returns to the Academy of Light after being on international duty @CAF_Online #CAN2017 pic.twitter.com/7VGkL3xsnA— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) January 26, 2017
His appearances at the African tournament displayed a similar pattern to those he has racked up in English football so far. He was one of Gabon's better performers and grew into the tournament as it progressed. But, his last-gasp missed goal-scoring opportunity in the host nation's final group game summed up his frustrating adventure at ACON2017.
Now Ripoll - who says he is ready for a new challenge - claims Lorient's decision to sell Ndong, without adequate thought to the impact it would have on their prospects, was a mistake:
On the case of Didier Ndong, the mistake the club has made is not to anticipate it more. And not being able to replace it in time.
Cast your mind back to last summer and recall that Ndong was a deadline day signing in David Moyes' rushed first transfer window. In truth, the 22-year-old had been scouted by Sunderland for some time, and earlier in the year had been a rumoured target for Sam Allardyce, but Ripoll hints that the euro-signs flashing before the eyes of Lorient president, Loric Fery, forced a sale which ignored the footballing impact on his club:
It [the sale of Ndong] certainly raises questions that the club will have to have over the years to come. But with President Féry, we had frank and cordial relations despite some moments of disagreement.
For his part, Didier Ndong is back in training with Sunderland, and with a bit of luck, geared up to continue the form he showed in his last appearance - against Liverpool - in a red-and-white shirt before he departed for Gabon.