SUNDERLAND are among a cluster of Premier League clubs keeping tabs on rookie Denmark centre-half Jores Okore.
The Black Cats are understood to have watched the 20-year-old in action for Danish outfit Nordsjaelland, twice thrashed by Chelsea in the group stages of the Champions League this season.
Okore is not expected to leave Scandinavia during the January transfer window, but the summer could spark a move for the highly-rated four-time Denmark international.
Premier League leaders Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle are among the clubs who have also scouted Okore, with Fulham rumoured to have seen a £2.5m bid rejected earlier this month.
After being boosted by the windfall of Champions League football, Nordsjaelland are under less pressure to sell, but it is understood that a bid of about £4m could tempt them.
Nordsjaelland are eager to keep Okore in his homeland until the end of the season though, with the club lying second in the table at the halfway point of the campaign.
Sporting director Jan Laursen said: “We are keeping a cool head when it comes to offers.
“It goes without saying that Jores Okore is an important player in our team, but of course we look at everything that is being presented to us.
“But both Jores and us can afford to be a bit more picky than your average club and average player.”
Sunderland have already boosted their central defensive ranks this month with the capture of 6ft 5in Senegalese international Kader Mangane.
The loan move for Mangane could be made permanent in the summer, if the Al-Hilal man impresses at the Stadium of Light.
But Martin O’Neill is still on the look-out for long-term reinforcements at centre-half, even if he signs Mangane.
Neither Titus Bramble nor Matt Kilgallon are likely to be retained when their contracts expire at the end of the season, while Wes Brown is less than a fortnight away from marking a year on the treatment table.
Okore’s agent Nikola Juric said: “There is major interest in Jores Okore, and it is flattering looking at the list of clubs he is being linked with.
“When he is going to make a decision, it is of major importance that we sense the club has a clear plan for his future.
“We aim for stability. Jores is not going to one place only to go out on loan to another club.”
Okore, who didn’t feature in Nordsjaelland’s 6-1 thrashing at Chelsea last month, is not the only young defender to have been linked with a move to Sunderland.
Reports this week have indicated Sunderland are ready to make a £2m bid for 6ft 2in Barnsley right-back John Stones, who is also interesting Wigan, Everton, Fulham and Chelsea.