SPANISH outfit Villarreal are ready to hijack Sunderland’s move for full-back Lucas Orban after the conclusion of the Argentine league.
The Gazette revealed earlier this month how Orban, one of the Black Cats’ principal summer targets, wanted to finish his season with Argentina outfit Tigre before deciding on his future.
Tigre’s campaign drew to a close on Saturday and the left-back is now expected to discuss his next move with his family.
Sunderland remain confident of landing the 24-year-old, although under Premier League rules, they would need to agree a deal with both Tigre and River Plate, who each own half of his registration.
But Villarreal, together with Boca Juniors, are keen to gazump Sunderland to the signing of a player who has earned rave reviews this season.
Orban is expected to move to Europe, rather than remain in South America, which is likely to rule Boca out of the running.
Yet Villarreal, promoted back to La Liga last season, are firmly in the running for Orban and can boast a history of successfully developing Argentine players.
The Black Cats are desperate to sign a new left-back this summer though and will hope that the spotlight of the Premier League will prove the trump card in the pursuit of Orban, as he looks to force his way into the Argentina squad for next summer’s World Cup.
Orban could be granted the opportunity to play regular first-team football on Wearside too, with no recognised left-backs on Sunderland’s books.
Sunderland are thought to be still keen on signing last season’s loan success Danny Rose on a permanent basis.
But as yet, Sunderland have made no move for the Spurs defender, leaving Paolo Di Canio with just one natural full-back at his disposal in Phil Bardsley, who is almost certain to be offloaded this summer.
Lazio right-back Pedro Cavanda is on Sunderland’s radar, but the Black Cats are yet to agree a fee for the 22-year-old.
Orban is not the only Argentine player Sunderland are pursuing either, with winger Nacho Scocco continuing to be linked with a move to the Stadium of Light.
Scocco’s agent claimed earlier this month that the 28-year-old was only likely to leave Argentine table-toppers Newell’s Old Boys for a Champions League club after shining during a loan spell from Middle Eastern outfit Al Ain.
But it now appears that Scocco’s loan stint is unlikely to be extended beyond next month’s Copa Libertadores.
Scocco favours a move to Italy or Spain though, while his estimated £60,000 a week wages remain the major barrier for Sunderland, who would also have to pay a transfer fee around the £4.5m mark.