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Pickford 'a target' for Newcastle; Niall Quinn on Sunderland relegation & Khazri loan exit mooted

With the drop confirmed mere hours ago, the carcass-picking stories have started. None more ridiculous than the Sun this morning with a claim that Newcastle are set to make a move for Jordan Pickford. Niall Quinn has been discussing the relegation of his former club and further options for an exit for Wahbi Khazri from Sunderland have been speculated about in Spain.

Southampton v Sunderland - EFL Cup Fourth Round Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jordan Pickford 'shock target' for Rafa Bentitez

According to this morning's Sun, Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has identified Sunderland's Jordan Pickford as a target.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The report says the Magpies are prepared to offer the Washington-born goalkeeper £75,000 a week to swap Wearside for Tyneside.

The Sun 'exclusive' also claims Everton are in pole position to land the 22-year-old from relegated Sunderland with West Ham, Manchester City and Arsenal also in the race for his signature.

There is of course just one problem with the 'exclusive' - as a boyhood Sunderland fan, Pickford himself said mere days ago that he would 'never' sign for Newcastle. In an interview with Sky Sports, the stopper who has been a rare bright spot for David Moyes' dismal side this season said of the prospect of moving to St James Park:

I would never do that. I couldn't do it myself. I would never go to Newcastle.

This latest story follows hot on the heels of various reports suggesting Rafa Benitez is keen on signing Jermain Defoe too. We can probably expect a few more of these now the Tyne-Wear rivals are confirmed as due to swap places in the leagues next season.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League
Defoe scoring against Newcastle in 2015
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Defoe has scored two goals against Newcastle in Tyne-Wear derby games which have entered Mackem folklore.

Niall Quinn on Sunderland relegation

Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn says Sunderland were relegated because of a lack of fire power and a limited squad depth with players who had drained of confidence as a difficult season became progressively worse.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
Niall Quinn on the pitch at Sunderland last May
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ, the former Black Cats striker who scored 67 goals in his 7 seasons on Wearside outlined the key difficulties faced by David Moyes during his tenure:

There were a number of things which pointed to it happening earlier in the season. The reliance on Defoe every year, but when he started to dry up you felt there's not really a plan B there and injuries at key times to key players.

And Quinn believes one win since the turn of the year saw all belief evaporate from the Sunderland players:

You could feel the confidence draining the longer the year went on. I saw them play in some games and they really just were nervous and not 'at it' at all.

So it's been a real hard one for David Moyes and he's tried everything - I'm sure - that he's got in his book, but it wasn't enough, it couldn't overcome the fear the players were playing under.

Quinn was replaced as chairman at the Stadium of Light in 2011 when Ellis Short purchased the club - a move which preceded Sunderland's dismal five-year battle against relegation which finally concluded yesterday afternoon.

Khazri may leave Sunderland on loan

Wahbi Khazri has been linked with a move to France or Spain in recent days. Rennes and Bordeaux are said to be keen on returning the Tunisian to Ligue 1 and in LaLiga Espanyol and Real Betis are the two clubs to have been credited with a continuing interest in the services of the 26-year-old.

Sunderland v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Khazri in action against Bournemouth on Saturday
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The playmaker who signed for Sunderland in January 2016 is understand to have already had preliminary discussions with his representatives about a move away from the Stadium of Light at the end of the season.

Now according to Spanish daily sports newspaper Estadio Deportivo, Betis have emerged as front runners for Khazri's signature and may move to take the Tunisian international on loan this summer if they are unable to negotiate a permanent transfer fee with Sunderland.

The outlet suggest the Black Cats' player is on a wanted list which contains several options including an alternative swoop for Moroccan international Carcela-Gonzalez currently with Tony Adams' Granada. The former Standard Liege attacking midfielder has scored 5 goals in LaLiga this season.

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