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Asoro reacts to 'big club' links; Sunderland one of three sides to enquire after French defender

After several days of making headlines since being linked with Arsenal, Sunderland prospect Joel Asoro has commented on the transfer stories; the coach of Viking Stavanger has provided an update on young centre-back Michael Ledger's future and the Black Cats are said to be one of three English clubs to have made contact with a French side over a 24-year-old defender.

Joel Asoro on those 'big club' links

He's been in the headlines for days over a potential move to Arsenal and a host of other clubs this summer, and now Joel Asoro has commented on the stories suggesting he will leave Sunderland.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town: EFL Cup
Joel Asoro in action for Sunderland last season
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The 18-year-old is with the Swedish squad which arrived in Poland yesterday afternoon to prepare for the Under-21 European Championships and spoke to the media about the surprise links:

People were a little shocked because I have played very little first team football. It is clear that people are surprised but we'll see what happens.

It came as a shock. It is clear that clubs contact each other and stuff but it's my agent in charge of it. I try to focus on my football.

If the timing of these stories is just a little convenient, coming as they do ahead of the showcase of young talent which begins on Friday, Asoro insists he was surprised that the stories have emerged, though he was aware that certain clubs have expressed an interest in him:

I've heard a little bit, but if I think about it too much it becomes 'what if what if'. I try not to think about it too much.

Asoro playing for Sweden
UEFA.com

And asked again about his position at Sunderland, the young forward insists he just wants to play football at a senior level:

I can not say much now. It's clear you're not happy when you do not get to play that much but it's still my first season so I cannot expect too much, but I want to play more first team football.

But pressed on the subject, Asoro reiterated he will leave Sunderland if he doesn't feel he can develop at the Stadium of Light:

The thing is, I can not play Under-23 football anymore. It does not develop me and I need to find something else if we can not agree. You never know. Let's see what happens.

Dare we say it, but at the age of 18 and with just 10 minutes of league first team football under his belt, young Mr Asoro may be well advised to tone down the demands a little.

And someone from the Academy of Light may be well advised to give him quick a ring and have a wee word.


Viking boss comments on Ledger's future

Sunderland youngster Michael Ledger's loan spell comes to an end with Norwegian side Viking Stavanger next month.

Michael Ledger warming up with his Viking teammates
ITromse

With the make up of next season's squad almost impossible to predict at the manager-less Black Cats right now, the Eliteserien outfit remain hopeful they can come to an arrangement with Sunderland to keep Ledger a little longer.

Viking manager Ian Burchnell is aware that with a host of central defenders set to leave the Stadium of Light this summer, any new boss will likely opt to take a look at 19-year-old Ledger:

The club [Sunderland] has not got a manager and the new boss would probably have him in for a look. We'll see. It's possible we could get a compromise where he goes back there for a few weeks and then comes back here. Sunderland in any case are very satisfied with this loan.

With John O'Shea and Joleon Lescott now confirmed as released, Jason Denayer returned to Manchester City and Lamine Kone certain to be sold, the Black Cats will be in the market for centre-halfs this summer.

There is still a chance O'Shea has been offered a new deal and if he has, he would join Papy Djilobodji as the sole pair of senior centre-backs who will probably be left at Sunderland - though the latter has indicated he is keen to leave the Stadium of Light too.

And all of that may yet give Michael Ledger a shot at making the first team in the Championship.


Sunderland 'make contact' with 24-year-old defender

Speaking of centre backs, according to reports in France, Sunderland have made contact with a 24-year-old who plays in Ligue 2.

French football site MaLigue2 which covers second-tier football across the channel, claim the Black Cats are interested in Tours FC defender Jonathan Gradit.

Jonathan Gradit playing for Tours FC
ToursFC

The 6ft 1in centre-half who also plays regularly at right-back has been with the Ligue 2 outfit since 2014 after rising through the youth system at Bordeaux. After being released from Les Girondins Gradit spent a couple of years in the lower leagues of French football before joining Tours on a free transfer.

Gradit made 31 appearances in Ligue 2 last season scoring three goals and French observers report that he had a solid campaign and is attracting attention from Ligue 1 sides.

Speculation in France further claims that two Premier League clubs have contacted Tours about Gradit and one Championship club - said to be Sunderland. Reports suggest the player is open to the idea of moving to England.