Sunderland have taken Zambian defender Stoppila Sunzu on trial as they look to bolster their defensive options.
Sunzu, 23, is currently on Wearside as he attempts to earn a permanent deal at the Stadium of Light. That follows January interest from Premier League rivals Reading, who pulled out of a deal amid a contractual dispute between Sunzu and current club TP Mazembe.
Speaking earlier this week, Martin O’Neill confirmed that the Zambia international’s club has sanctioned the trial, with Sunzu playing a behind-closed-doors friendly for the Black Cats.
“He played a little game the other day, but he had a swollen knee before he came here and he had to come off in the game,” O’Neill said. “That will stop him training for a week at most. And then he’ll be going away to play during the international break so we’ll monitor him during that game."
O’Neill added: “But I haven’t seen enough of him yet to make a decision on him. Nobody has ever mentioned a price. We’ve done things by the book, approaching his club (over a trial) and they’ve said that’s fine.”
That followed confirmation earlier on Tuesday from Sunzu that he is relishing his trial period on Wearside.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with the club so far,” Sunzu told ESPN. “Sunderland have made me feel very welcome here in the North East. My aim is to try and help the club achieve its goal of getting into Europe.”
Despite admitting that Premier League survival is his primary focus, O’Neill has been keen to reshape his squad ahead of next season. Sunzu has attracted interest from across Europe after impressing at club level. However, any deal for the centre-back may be delayed by his international commitments, with Zambia set to face Lesotho next week in a World Cup qualifier.