Five Black Cats bargains to be had should Sunderland sink
Sunderland (13/2 with Coral to finish bottom) sit just one point above the Premier League drop zone and, as Leicester City continue to surge up the table, could find themselves facing another stint in the Championship next season.
Here, we pick out five Black Cats talents that could represent bargain buys for top-tier clubs if the Wearside club succumb to relegation, which they are odds-on at 5/6 to do.
Patrick van Aanholt (Left back)
Once of Chelsea, flying Dutchman Van Aanholt has gained a new lease of life since returning from a mid-term injury, and has particularly impressed since compatriot Dick Advocaat took over the reins.
A return of five league assists from the fleet-footed fullback plus an FA Cup strike is nothing to be sniffed at in a struggling side. He may still be a raw diamond at 24 but, with plenty of potential, exciting Van Aanholt’s sense of adventure could see the defender find a home with an ambitious outfit such as Swansea City or Crystal Palace.
Jermain Defoe (Striker)
Defoe may have only just made his return to the Premier League, but relegation was surely not a part of the poacher’s plans. Should Sunderland bite the dust, big earners will likely be the first to go and forward Defoe could still make a difference as a squad player elsewhere.
The 32-year-old’s experience and big game appetite would make him a fine match for any promoted team needing to add further forward nous and depth to their attacking arsenal.
Watch Defoe’s dramatic derby volley against Newcastle here:
Sebastian Larsson (Central midfield)
Versatile Sweden star Larsson has just two terms left on his contract, and will presumably not want to risk his national team spot by dropping down a level.
Still only 29, the set-piece specialist Swede seems to have been around for ever, and could be a canny pick up as a proven utility man for a number of mid-table outfits, without costing a pretty penny.
Take a peek at Larsson’s set-piece skills:
Costel Pantilimon (Goalkeeper)
Pantilimon impressed enough when jostling Joe Hart at Manchester City that a move to pastures new seemed inevitable. Often the Black Cats’ saviour this season, it would be intriguing to see how the Romanian rearguard protector would fare in front of a sturdier backline.
The agile custodian has kept eight league clean sheets this season and could again be a tempting punt for Alan Pardew and Palace, who may be on the search for a new stopper.
Connor Wickham (Striker)
Former wonderboy Wickham was once an apparent target for teams such as Liverpool and, although the 22-year-old’s stock has fallen significantly since he burst onto the scene with Ipswich Town, he could still grow into a goal-getter for a top-tier team.
The strong centre forward was a hero for the Black Cats as they kept their heads above water to beat the drop last season, and could well prove crucial again as Sunderland are odds-on at 5/6 to survive once more.
Four league goals and one assist is a modest return for such a once highly-rated talent, though Wickham’s recent cameos, boasting tenacity, pace and physicality, show he could still have what it takes.
With Peter Crouch not getting any younger, Wickham could certainly claim a place at Stoke City in the coming transfer window, while almost-safe West Bromwich Albion may need to replace sought-after starlet Saido Berahino.
Watch Wickham’s top three goals here: