JOZY ALTIDORE was Sunderland’s trump card in pipping their rivals to Jermain Defoe’s signature.
Defoe was first identified by Gus Poyet and Lee Congerton as a potential solution to Sunderland’s goal-scoring problems in early December, when the head coach and sporting director were drawing up a list of January transfer targets.
At that stage, Sunderland believed that any potential deal for Defoe would be a struggle financially, with Toronto FC looking for a transfer fee around the £6million mark and the 32-year-old on a bumper deal with the MLS outfit.
They weren’t alone in holding that view, with Defoe’s fellow Premier League suitors QPR, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Hull all wary of the outlay involved in bringing him back to the Premier League.
But when Toronto began to pursue Sunderland flop Altidore, the Black Cats stole a march on their rivals by being able to offer a straight swap deal, with neither party having to invest anything extra in a transfer fee.
Sunderland’s only additional financial outlay has been the difference between Defoe and Altidore’s respective salaries, with the England international unveiled yesterday after penning a three-and-a-half year deal at the Stadium of Light.
Head coach Poyet said: “It wasn’t easy. It was a very good deal from Lee Congerton and the club.
“Credit to the people at the club – Lee, Margaret (Byrne, chief executive) Jermain himself, his family and his agent.
“Everything needed to come together. I think we were always talking about a striker (for January).
“And then if it was a striker who was able to play wide, it wouldn’t be a problem.
“With the position we were to bring someone in, it looked like it would be easier to bring someone in to play a little bit wider. But there wasn’t many of them. And then of course, you develop and find things that are happening.
“This is perfect!”
The deal also solves the problem of offloading Altidore, with both Sunderland and the player himself eager for a fresh start after netting just one Premier League goal during 18 months at the Stadium of Light.
French side Lille and Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen had both made tentative enquiries about taking Altidore on loan.
But he would have needed to take a pay cut to join either of those two suitors.
That will not be a problem for Altidore in the MLS, with Toronto offering him a bumper five-year deal to move to Canada.
Poyet said: “There were a few people interested in Jozy, but in reality... nothing.
“For him to go to another league and to be earning what he was earning here, was quite difficult.
“There are deals in England which are easy to do because if you go to a Championship club (on loan) the Premiership club will pay part of the wages.
“But you cannot do that in Europe. When it’s an international loan, they pay you, so if they can’t pay you you’re money, you have to earn less.
“It’s a problem with many players we have. We never got to that stage with Jozy because there was no proper offer.
“This is a great deal for everyone. You can ask the people from America and they’re delighted.”