AUGSBURG look set to be priced out of a move for Ji Dong-won, even though they haven’t given up hope of keeping the Sunderland striker.
But with a queue of other Bundesliga clubs lining up to land Ji, the South Korean still looks likely to leave the Stadium of Light this summer.
Augsburg have been eager to land Ji on a permanent move after his five goals in his 17-game loan spell helped them secure survival in the German top flight.
But Augsburg’s finances are likely to preclude them from landing Ji, as they struggle to raise the £2m fee agreed with Sunderland when the South Korean left Wearside in January.
The time limit to trigger that deal is now rumoured to have expired, leaving the door open for other Bundesliga clubs to increase their interest in the 21-year-old.
Augsburg general manager Stefan Reuter insists the club are still in talks over a move for Ji, who didn’t make a single first-team appearance for Sunderland last season.
Reuter said: “The player knows what he did for us, but we also know what we did for the player.”
But sources in Germany stress that a permanent move to Augsburg looks increasingly unlikely, even if Ji is expected to remain in the Bundesliga.
Stuttgart, Freiburg and Borrusia Monchengladbach are keeping tabs on the former Chunnam Dragons man after he impressed in the relegation scrap, in a deeper role behind central striker Sascha Molders.
Ji could still have a future at Sunderland, with Black Cats head coach Paolo Di Canio yet to work with the frontman.
But Sunderland are conscious this summer of the need to balance the books, to comply with both FIFA Financial Fair Play and the £4m wage budget increase limit, imposed by Premier League clubs after the new TV deal.
Like Ahmed Elmohamady, who also spent the end of the campaign away on loan, Ji is likely to be sacrificed if Sunderland can cover their initial outlay and remove him permanently from the wage bill.