SUNDERLAND are hoping to wrap up a loan move for Senegal centre-half Kader Mangane this weekend.
The Black Cats have agreed a deal with Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Hilal to take 6ft 5in defender Mangane on loan until the end of the season, and he is expected on Wearside over the weekend to discuss personal terms and undergo a medical.
Martin O’Neill has been desperate to boost his options at the heart of the back four during the January transfer window after seeing Carlos Cuellar and John O’Shea join long-term absentee Wes Brown on the treatment table.
And the Black Cats boss has confirmed that he has made an approach for Mangane, who only joined the Middle East club during the summer after leaving French outfit Rennes.
Mangane now looks likely to follow France Under-21 international Alfred N’Diaye in moving to the Stadium of Light during the window and provide another major boost to O’Neill’s options.
As is standard practice in loan deals between different countries, there will be an option to make the move permanent in the summer, if the 29-year-old impresses.
But by taking Mangane on loan, it gives O’Neill a chance to take a closer look at a player who was linked with Newcastle United, West Ham and Arsenal last summer.
None of those potential deals materialised for Mangane, and he moved to Al-Hilal on a reported £75,000 a week tax-free deal.
But he hasn’t enjoyed his stint in the Middle East, and has asked to leave the club in a bid to return to Europe.
O’Neill needs to strengthen his defensive options both in the short and long-term.
The Sunderland boss admits the problem has become a concern after being left with just two fully-fit central defenders – Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon.
“Centre-half is becoming a real problem to us at the moment,” said O’Neill.
“Carlos got injured last weekend, John O’Shea is only just back in training, and Wes is obviously still a long way away.”
But neither Bramble nor Kilgallon are likely to be offered a new contract to remain at the Stadium of Light when their current deals expire in the summer, while doubts remain over Brown’s long-term fitness after a year on the sidelines.