Sunderland have moved for Manchester United duo Paddy McNair and Donald Love after refusing to let Lamine Kone leave before lining up replacements.
The Black Cats are understood to have agreed a combined £5.5million fee for the 21-year-old defenders as David Moyes looks to bolster his defensive options.
Sunderland have spent £8million on Chelsea centre-back Papy Djilobodji but face losing key defender Kone to Everton in an £18million deal.
The arrival of McNair and Love would speed up Kone’s departure, with the Black Cats unwilling to sanction his exit to cash-rich Everton before signing defensive reinforcements.
Northern Ireland international McNair is a centre-back who has made a total of 27 career appearances, while full-back Love was given his debut by Louis van Gaal.
Love, who made his debut against Sunderland in February, spent time on loan at Wigan Athletic last season, making eight appearances.
Both are surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
John Stones’ £50million move from Everton to Manchester City was rubber-stamped on Tuesday, which then triggered movement in the transfer market.
Everton want to replace the England international with Kone AND Swansea City and Wales captain Ashley Williams, who travelled to Merseyside for his medical.
Once Williams’ £12million deal is confirmed, Everton are expected to push for Kone on a five-year deal.
Everton captain Phil Jagielka had been touted as a possible replacement, going in the opposite direction, but the Toffees were not keen on that arrangement.
Chelsea are also tracking 27-year-old Kone, with manager Antonio Conte a fan. Their main defensive target though, remains Napoli centre back Kalidou Koulibaly.
The Sunderland players had a day off from training at the Academy of Light on Tuesday, with reports Kone had travelled to Merseyside for talks on Monday night.
Kone, though, was expected back at training today.
Sunderland – who have also been linked with a move for Torino right-back Davide Zappacosta – are not commenting on the transfer speculation.
Both Everton and Leicester have enquired about Kone, with the Ivory Coast international understandably attracting interest since arriving for £5million in January.
There had been no indication during the course of pre-season that Kone wanted to leave Wearside, with the defender understood to have been wanting a new deal.
But Everton have ramped up their interest in the past few days and Sunderland could now cash in.
David Moyes is looking to add to his squad ahead of Manchester City but he had not ruled out banking big bucks from one of Sunderland’s key players in future – if that money can be used to strengthen the side.
Speaking last week, Moyes said: “I’m always going to keep the best players, but I’m also going to move the club along. At different times things will have to change.
“We had to sell Wayne Rooney, Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell, Joleon Lescott, but it didn’t affect the club, the club moved on.
“I would never say that it won’t happen. But I want to keep the best players and build a team.
“The more important thing is us bringing players in and bringing in players who can get us away from the wrong end of the league.”
Ironically, Kone is the cover star and features in the latest edition of Legion of Light, the club’s magazine.
Speaking in the magazine, Kone said: “You have seen a lot of me so far but there is a lot more to come!”