Cheikh M’Bengue has disclosed he has been approached by Sunderland, and would be interested in the move to Wearside after being linked with the club.
The French-born defender is currently out of contract after leaving Ligue 1 side, Stade Rennais and - with an extra bonus - is also available on a free transfer.
Race to sign
However, he is in high demand after being vigorously linked with clubs like local rivals Newcastle, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion. French club Saint-Etienne and German outfit, Hamburger SV have also been reportedly interested.
Despite playing in the lower divisions and never playing in the Premier League, M’Bengue’s route into Newcastle’s first team might not be easier than at Sunderland. With Kevin Mbabu linked with a loan move away from the club, that leaves Paul Dummett and Massadio Haïdara still in that position.
He has talked up the anticipating move to the Premier League, while also keeping his options open too.
“It is true that I have a little attraction to the English league and the German championship,” he said.
M'Bengue continued, “But there is also the reality of the market, supply and demand. I’m not (only) focused on these leagues."
He believes that if he has "something that fits" and "the offer is interesting", then he would be "open" to any possible deal.
“Many clubs have approached me. Saint Etienne asked me and there is also Sunderland, clubs in Turkey, Newcastle – I will leave it a little time but not too long," he concluded.
This means the Black Cats head coach Sam Allardyce will have to sweeten the deal to beat off the competition to the signature of the player he wants to strengthen his squad.
The need to fill key positions
A winger, attacking midfielder and a right-back are high on Allardyce's list of positions he needs to strengthen to break the club’s cycle of facing the relegation battle. With no plans of selling Patrick van Aanholt, perhaps their most improved player, he was offered a contract extension at the end of last season.
M’Bengue has previously played at centre-back, but not on a regular basis. At Stade Rennais he established himself as a left-back, with odd appearances at wing-back.
His involvement in next year’s African Cup of Nations is thought not to be a major problem. Although M’Bengue, who has 23 caps to his name so far, he is not seen to be in coach Aliou Cisse's plans.
With that in mind, Ivory Coast’s Lamine Kone and Tunisia’s Whabi Khazri could both be involved in the fixtures in January if their sides are to qualify in September.