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Lens not quite in exit lounge yet, but surely has a case packed as Sunderland eye replacement

Reports over the weekend have continued to suggest Sunderland winger Jeremain Lens is edging closer to the Stadium of Light exit door as Simon Grayson seeks to bring in a replacement.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Reports in Turkey yesterday claimed Sunderland and Besiktas have agreed a price for the transfer of Jeremain Lens.

The Dutchman was again missing from the Black Cats squad on Saturday for the second pre-season game running, and whilst the winger has been nursing a hip injury it now seems but a matter of hours he departs Sunderland.

Considering Lens has been Simon Grayson’s best player in pre-season, it would be something of a shame if the 29-year-old would not do his current boss a favour and stick around for a few days to test himself against Derby’s back-line on Friday night. After all, the Turkish league season does not kick off until a week after the Championship’s opener.

Livingston v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Jeremain Lens celebrates scoring with with Lamine Kone
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Besiktas had a bid for Lens turned down last week and have been expected to return with a better offer. The news that the Turkish champions are on the brink of concluding a deal with Sunderland originated in that bastion of transfer truth, BeIN Sports Turkey on Sunday and quickly spread.

After the Black Cats were brushed aside by Celtic in a horrid weekend for the club, a player of Lens’ quality will be difficult to replace, even if Darron Gibson does suspect the Netherlands international doesn’t give a ****.

Naturally, perhaps, media outlets over the weekend have claimed Sunderland are stepping up their pursuit of Bournemouth forward Max Gradel to fill the void which Lens - or indeed his teammate Wahbi Khazri - will leave should either depart this week.

Gradel is thought to be pondering his options this summer despite being told by Eddie Howe that he has a future on the south coast.

Sunderland v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Max Gradel arriving at the Stadium of Light as a Bournemouth player in April, will be be making the move a more permanent one for next season?
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Links with a move to the Stadium of Light went quiet after reports in France claimed the player born in the Ivory Coast was keen on a return to League One. Gradel signed for Bournemouth from Saint Etienne in 2015 and Toulouse is the club from across the Channel said to be monitoring the 29-year-old’s availability.

Howe suggested last week that one unidentified team were particularly keen on landing Gradel before the season begins.

As Simon Grayson has already signed one Bournemouth player in Lewis Grabban - who was utilised out wide in a Lens-like role on Saturday - could his Cherries teammate follow him north?

Elsewhere, there have been claims Sunderland are one of the clubs considering giving former Black Cats prospect Patrick McEleny a second shot at English football. The link to Wearside surfaced again yesterday but has been suggested in Ireland earlier in the summer too.

Derry-born McEleney was at Sunderland as a youngster on a scholarship before signing a three-year contract at the age of 16. Seemingly some falling out went on with the coaching staff at the Academy of Light and the forward returned to Ireland in 2009, signing for Dundalk and later admitting he had been home-sick.

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw: UEFA Champions League
McEleny playing for Dundalk in Champions League qualifying last year
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The 6ft attacker has featured over 170 times in the League of Ireland and mainljy operates centrally. McEleney has been on top form lately, scoring 8 goals in 20 appearances in the Eire season which kicked off in March.

Awarded ‘Player of the Month’ for June in the Irish league, McEleney has scored some corkers lately displaying the full repertoire which resides within his locker.

Ex-Sunderland player and former Republic of Ireland international Stephen Elliott recently urged the Black Cats to take a look at McEleney, who is eligible for both the North and the Republic at international level.

Collecting his gong a few weeks ago, McEleney suggested he had no hard feelings about turning his back on the opportunity he had been handed on Wearside, telling the Irish Sun:

I haven’t a bad word to say about the club. They did everything in their power to try and keep me. I played there with Jordan Pickford, Conor Hourihane, Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback....

But I missed family and friends - I just didn’t want to be there. I was young and it just wasn’t for me. I’ve no regrets.

Would he fancy giving Sunderland a second shot, and more to the point would the League of Ireland’s star man be able to make the step up into the English Championship?

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