SUNDERLAND appear to be in pole position to land Sheffield United teenager Diego De Girolamo after the striker rejected a new contract at Bramall Lane.
De Girolamo’s Blades career is effectively over after he has turned down the chance to remain with the League One outfit.
The 19-year-old’s current deal expires in the summer and he yesterday rejoined League Two strugglers York City on loan until the end of the season, for his third stint at Bootham Crescent.
Sunderland – along with Juventus – have been tracking the Italy Under-20 international, with a view to potentially adding him to the Black Cats development squad.
And while Sheffield Utd would be owed compensation due to De Girolamo’s age, Blades boss Nigel Clough expects the youngster to depart during the summer, with Sunderland thought to be his preferred destination.
Clough said: “We made Diego what was a very good contract offer and he turned it down. So the matter will go upstairs now.
“Diego believes there will be better opportunities for him somewhere else.”
Sunderland sporting director Lee Congerton has been proactive in attempting to improve the club’s chance of developing young talent in his year at the helm, with Under-21 squad quintet Tom Beadling, Martin Smith, Jordan Pickford, Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch all signing new contracts.
Midfielders Liam Agnew and George Honeyman have made their first-team debuts over the last month too, albeit Gus Poyet’s hand has been somewhat forced by injuries.
But as well as developing those players already on the club’s books, Sunderland have been looking to bring in promising youngsters from elsewhere, with Watmore notably progressing since joining from non-league Altrincham 18 months ago.
Sunderland were among the clubs watching Exeter midfielder Matt Grimes before he joined Swansea in a £1.75million deal last month, while the Black Cats have been keeping tabs on teenage Dundee striker Craig Wighton.
De Girolamo fits into that bracket, despite making just nine first-team appearances for Sheffield Utd, although he has netted four goals in eight appearances during two previous loan stints with York.