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Sunderland scouts take in Europa League tie; Swap deal takes shape & Congerton set for Celtic

In this morning's news roundup: Reports suggest Sunderland had scouts at last night's Europa League game in Greece which adds weight to recent transfer gossip; and former Director of Football, Lee Congerton, is on the verge of joining Celtic.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Sunderland scouts watch Europea League tie

According to various reports, Sunderland had a scout watching Besiktas against Olympiacos in the Europa League last night. The Greek club won the first leg of the quarter final by a goal-to-nil with the second fixture set to take place in Istanbul next Thursday.

The subject of Sunderland interest is thought to have been Besiktas midfielder Tolgay Arslan.

SSC Napoli v Besiktas JK - UEFA Champions League
Tolgay Arslan (centre) playing for Besiktas
Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

The presence of a Black Cats representative adds fuel to the fire that Sunderland are open to exchanging want-away winger Jeremain Lens in a summer swap deal involving one of his host of Turkish admirers.

As we covered earlier this week, Turkish football outlets have been linking Arslan with Sunderland since January. And with Besiktas supposedly joining Galatasaray as the Super Lig clubs in the hunt for Jeremain Lens - currently on loan at Fenerbahçe - the summer may see a minor battle in the Balkans for the Dutch winger's signature.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League
Jeremain Lens playing for Sunderland against Manchester City
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Recent gossip in Turkey has claimed Besiktas have made contact with Sunderland over Lens and that a deal involving Arslan moving to the Stadium of Light has been mooted.

The German-born defensive midfielder has been the subject of rumours suggesting he is on the verge of a move to England for some time. He was supposedly a target for Arsenal a couple of years back and for West Ham last summer.

The 26-year-old rose through the ranks at Borussia Dortmund before spending six years at Hamburger SV, during which time former Sunderland Director of Football, Lee Congerton, arrived and departed the Bundesliga club.

Congerton back in the business?

Speaking of Congerton, the Scottish Daily Mail yesterday reported that the former Sunderland man has been offered the post of head of player recruitment at Glasgow Celtic.

Congerton during an interview for the BBC

The 42-year-old was placed on gardening leave at Sunderland in December 2015 and saw out his twelve month notice period to the end of last year. He was thought to have tendered his resignation when Dick Advocaat stepped down as manager two months prior, but was forced to stick it out on Wearside until Sam Allardyce took full control over player dealings once he was firmly esconsed in the Stadium of Light hotseat.

Congerton was removed from his post ahead of the January 2016 transfer window as Allardyce engineered the most successful spell of player recruitment at Sunderland in years - a fleeting window of brilliance which saw the signings of Kirchhoff, Kone and Khazri - the trio which would ultimately prove crucial in salvaging Premier League status last season.

Congerton was head of scouting when present Celtic boss, Brendan Rodgers, was reserve team manager at Chelsea, and he appears to have emerged as the strongest candidate for the current vacancy at Parkhead. It's also thought that he has had offers to work in China and the MLS. The two men had some success at Stamford Bridge in developing prospects including Daniel Sturridge, Scott Sinclair and Fabio Borini.

The Welshman's stint as Director of Football at the Stadium of Light is widely regarded as a failure and indicative of the poor player recruitment which has dogged Sunderland in recent years.

Curious signings such as Jordi Gomez and Ignacio Scocco proved themselves as unable to meet the rigours of the Premier League alongside other high profile disappointments including Sebastian Coates and Jack Rodwell. There were some successes though, such as the loan move for Yann M'Vila and of course the swap deal sending Jozy Altidore to Toronto in return for Jermain Defoe.

Ultimately, if Congerton wasn't the terminal cause of the problem at Sunderland - the root of which goes much deeper than the revolving door of managers and associated football executives - he was very much one of the symptoms. It will be interesting to see how he gets on in the SPL.

The quadruplets of recruitment misery during the Congerton era - Assistant Director of Football Ryan Sachs, Director of Football Lee Congerton, Owner Ellis Short and Manager Gus Poyet

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