Sunderland are reported as being “ready to turn to ” Stewart Downing in his bid to strengthen Sunderland this summer.
Manager Dick Advocaat hopes the Irons will be ready to sell as they enter a new era under Slaven Bilic following Sam Allardyce’s exit.
And his move may come as early as this week as he bids to head the queue in front of any other interested clubs which The Northern Echo says could include Middlesbrough.
Sunderland are fighting the Hammers for Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson and both he and sporting director Lee Congerton see Downing as a player who can settle straight into life back in the north east.
The Echo writes: “There is likely to be other interest in the Middlesbrough-born England international but Sunderland would stand a great chance because it is close to his childhood roots. He also had a successful short month loan spell there in 2003.
The newspaper adds:”Middlesbrough could yet provide an alternative if chairman Steve Gibson opts to make a surprise statement of interest in the transfer market.
Downing has two years to run on his contract and the Irons would want at least the £5 million they paid for him although his £50k a week wages would prove a problem to Boro.”