Reports this morning have claimed Sunderland will step up their efforts to land Preston striker Jordan Hugill.
The Northern Echo even suggest that Simon Grayson has already had two bids turned down for the 25-year-old he previously worked with at Deepdale and will return with a better offer imminently.
Yet journalist for The Sun, Alan Nixon, this afternoon suggested the Black Cats have made no contact with the Lilywhites and have “never been near Hugill”.
And perhaps that would make sense considering Preston are thought to be demanding £6m for their star man amidst intense interest from Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City and other unnamed Championship sides.
It is increasingly clear that Sunderland can not stump up anything more than a nominal fee for targets as the transfer window progresses. So does that mean Hugill is now out of reach?
Last week, Black Cats boss Simon Grayson said the days of the club paying out sizeable fees were over, and even appeared to suggest a sum of £5m would be out of the question:
We’re shopping at a different level to a lot of other clubs, we’re not in a position where we can go and spend five, ten, fifteen million on players.
The Sunderland manager went on to insist “small or reasonable” fees supplemented by loan deals will continue to be the order of the day.
But what is alarming, is that the Black Cats clearly need a striker as demonstrated by Friday’s draw with Derby, and may not be able to afford a decent one.
A target man who can finish may have won Sunderland the season opener against the Rams with chances going begging on the night that a clinical hit man may have put away.
Grayson’s relatively small side also require a body who can hold play up at the business end of the field, especially considering the apparent tendency to hit the ball long as demonstrated by the way in which Sunderland went about their business against Derby.
Without being able to pay the market rate for a proven forward who possesses those attributes, Sunderland’s options are depressingly limited as to who can be brought in.
Reports continue to suggest Aston Villa’s Ross McCormack is likely to arrive on loan - if Sunderland can negotiate a suitable arrangement to pay just a portion of his wages.
Earlier suggestions that Norwich front man Cameron Jerome had been sounded out also seem to have been shelved and with a price of tag of circa £6m, the Black Cats are unlikely to have been able to stump up the required fee anyway.
One forward who isn’t coming is Martyn Waghorn. The former Sunderland academy graduate whisked down to Ipswich this morning and signed for Mick McCarthy’s side in a matter of hours amidst continued suggestions Grayson had been interested in his services.
Even more concerning may be the suspicion that the Black Cats couldn’t even afford the £1m which Ipswich have lashed out for Waghorn.
Sunderland’s intentions are now completely unclear with transfer gossip stuck in an unending loop of ‘when we sell Kone’ - ‘when we sell Khazri’ and ‘when we sell Lens’.
Well the latter has now happened, yet the prospect that any of the money earned from Besiktas for the Dutchman will be re-invested look as distinctly distant as ever.