Sunderland’s summer exodus is underway, with top scorer Jermain Defoe poised to join Bournemouth on a three-year deal.
The 34-year-old former Tottenham and Portsmouth striker scored 15 Premier League goals for relegated Sunderland this season, but he will leave Wearside on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.
The Cherries have moved swiftly since the league campaign concluded at the weekend, with Defoe set for a bumper deal provided he sails through his medical.
That should not be an issue for evergreen Defoe, who keeps himself in peak physical condition and has again been Sunderland’s star outfield performer this term, despite his advancing years.
Sunderland, without a manager in the wake of David Moyes’ resignation this week, are braced for a major summer overhaul, with highly-rated England Under-21 goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Ivory Coast centre-back Lamine Kone and Italian forward Fabio Borini among those set to leave the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats have missed out on a pay day with England international Defoe, but they will be looking to recoup as much as possible from the sale of their other assets ahead of life in the Championship.
Defoe, who joined Sunderland in January 2015 and turns 35 in October, has a clause in his contract which allows him to leave as a free agent following Sunderland’s relegation.
He scored 15 goals in 40 appearances for Sunderland plus another for England on his return to the international fold in a World Cup qualifier in March, against Lithuania at Wembley.
Defoe was ruled out of the season finale at Chelsea on Sunday with a hamstring strain and was seen saying goodbye to his team-mates after the game before remaining in London.
The transfer to Bournemouth – who ended the season in ninth place, their best ever finish – is understood to be moving along at pace with a medical scheduled and reports that Defoe could earn as much as £20million over the three years. That whopping figure includes a signing-on fee.
The move will see him return to Bournemouth having enjoyed a successful spell there on loan from West Ham United as an 18-year-old in 2000-01, scoring 19 goals in 31 games.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe, a former team-mate of Defoe during his loan spell on the south coast, has been a long-time admirer of the striker and they have won the race to sign him.
West Ham United and Crystal Palace were among the clubs weighing up a move, but earlier this week it emerged the Hammers’ interest had cooled as they had moved on to other options.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic attempted to land Defoe in January with a £6million bid – rejected by Sunderland as they were still battling the drop at that point – but are now looking elsewhere.