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Larsson on Sunderland future - 'it's messy'; More Khazri fall-out & Pickford suitors widen net

In this morning's talking points: With his contract due to end in the summer, Seb Larsson has been discussing his future and has described Sunderland's state as 'messy'; The president of the Tunisian football association has stepped in to quell growing criticism of Wahbi Khazri's omission from the latest international squad; Some of Jordan Pickford's suitors are considering other options & a bit of transfer gossip is pondered.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Sebastian Larsson - Sunderland, it's messy

Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson is with the Swedish camp ahead of a World Cup Qualifier in Belarus this weekend and a friendly with Portugal next week.

Sweden v Wales - International Friendly Photo by Mikael Sjoberg/Ombrello/Getty Images

Speaking to the Swedish media, the 31-year-old has described the perilous league state of Sunderland as 'messy' and suggested he has no idea where he will be playing football next season.

On this his sixth campaign at Sunderland, each one bringing with it a relegation battle equally as crisis-laden as the last, Larsson said:

It's been messy. It is unfortunately not a new situation for us. But I'm here now with national team, then it's back to full focus on it.

The veteran of over 150 appearances in a Sunderland shirt is in the final months of his present deal at the Stadium of Light, but he says thoughts on his future beyond the end of the season must wait until the Black Cats' fate is sealed:

My situation is very relaxed. My contract expires in the summer. That's about where we are, no more no less. All focus is to sort out the situation the club is in. What happens in the summer we can get to later.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League
Sebastian Larsson and Bryan Oviedo up against Burnley's Andre Gray at the Stadium of Light last weekend
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

More Khazri fall-out, this time the president

This season has been a memorable one for Wahbi Khazri. It's been a frustrating one sure - the midfielder has been nothing more than a bit-part player in his second campaign at Sunderland since David Moyes arrived. But it's been incident-laden if nothing else.

Everton v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

For every occasional highlight that the Tunisian has enjoyed of late, there has been a corresponding low. Khazri has continued to excel on international duty and attracted headlines for his performances at the African Cup of Nations.

But prior to the flagship tournament, Khazri cast doubt over his temperament when he smacked a 19-year-old Mauritanian defender and was sent off.

Then in the dying minutes of his nation's exit in the quarter-finals of the Cup of Nations, the Sunderland man was withdrawn by Henry Kasperczak and refused to shake his hand. There were then rumours that Khazri had refused to travel home with the rest of the Tunisian squad and the ill-feeling still hasn't been expunged.

Khazri has been dropped by Tunisia as a result of his indiscipline and won't be in the squad which plays Cameroon and Morocco in the next week or so.

And in the growing fall-out from Tunisia's 'star' midfielder being unceremoniously dumped, the president of the North African country's football federation has waded in to claim he is the one responsible for blocking Khazri's selection.

Appearing on national TV, the head of Tunisian football, Wadii Jarii, criticised the Sunderland's player's attitude and said he had opted to personally intervene to exclude him from upcoming matches as a result.

The tragedy for Khazri may be that should Kasperczak remain in charge he may miss out on next year's World Cup. Tunisia remain unbeaten so far in their qualifying group and have a decent chance of making the finals in Russia.

Jordan Pickford and the Big Boys

Every club in the Premier League's current top seven have been linked with a summer move for Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in recent months.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League
Jordan Pickford sharing in the frustration of every other Sunderland supporter at the Stadium of Light on Saturday
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United. Arsenal and Everton - all have been subject to rumours suggesting they are monitoring the 22-year-old.

But perhaps his move to one of them after this season is not yet as inevitable as it seems.

Arsenal and Manchester City have been linked with big money summer moves for goalkeepers elsewhere in the past few days.

The Daily Mirror have suggested Stoke City's Jack Butland is being eyed as a direct replacement for Petr Cech by the Gunners. The 24-year-old has not played a game for the Potters all season but he is nearing full fitness and has been invited to meet up with Gareth Southgate's squad at their St George's Park training base this week.

And Manchester City have been widely linked with Barcelona 'keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen this week. Pep Guardiola is thought to be in the market for a big money stopper, with doubts remaining over his present pair of Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero.

So, two down - just five more of the big boys to put off before the transfer market opens and we might get to keep him.

This Portuguese rumour

It's back - the rumour that Sunderland will spend 20-million-euros on Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris.

SL Benfica v Torino - Eusebio Cup
Andreas Samaris playing for Benfica
Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

The 27-year-old was the subject of frantic gossip in Portugal during the January transfer window that he was all set to land at the Stadium of Light in a mega-bucks deal for the cash-strapped Black Cats.

The Greek international has made 19 appearances for Benfica this season having joined the Primeira Liga champions in the summer of 2014.

There are but three problems with this one. First, the rumour originates in Portuguese newspaper Record which has a frankly dire success rate in transfer gossip; second, the get-out clause in the rumour is the disclaimer that Samaris will not be joining if/when Sunderland are relegated; and third, with this week's revelations fresh in the mind, why would David Moyes - assuming he remains in charge of Sunderland in the summer - want a midfielder who isn't British?

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