A second uninspiring season in succession looks set to cost Steven Fletcher his place on the Sunderland payroll, with a move to Scottish champions Celtic reportedly in the offing.
With their underperforming centre-forward entering the final 12 months of his contract, the Black Cats are willing to accept as little as £2m for a player they forked out £12m to sign just three years ago in order to avoid stuffing his sizeable pay packet for another campaign.
Salary issues are thought to be the main stumbling block for the Bhoys, who can’t afford the £40,000-a-week Fletcher is picking up on Wearside.
After witnessing him score just eight times over his last 50 Premier League appearances, it’s unlikely a divisional rival will be keen to take such a hit in the wallet for the 26-year-old.
Even if there was an especially dim-witted protagonist in England’s top-tier willing to take a punt on the misfiring Scot, he should ignore any overtures and agree to the pay cut that would see his Parkhead switch sanctioned.
It’s a move that, judging by recent transactions between the clubs, will benefit all parties and, if it comes to fruition before the next transfer deadline, those who back it with bwin can get paid out at 2/5.
The Edinburgh native didn’t go directly between the two clubs, having retired upon the expiry of his Black Cats contract owing to persistent knee problems, but after a two-year sabbatical, he donned Celtic green and white and impressed suitably to win the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year last term.
In addition to this, he also reclaimed a spot in the national squad.
Totemic Slovakian Varga’s bright start to life in Sunderland was cruelly curtailed by a long-term knee injury and resulted in him being released midway through the 2002/03 edition.
Celtic capitalised on the Wearsiders’ profligacy and the centre-back became an integral part of their team over the next three-and-a-half seasons, winning two league titles, as many Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup too.
Varga went back to Sunderland after this trophy-laden spell north of the border, signing on the same day as Hoops colleague Wallace.
The left-winger featured 32 times during the north-east club’s run to the Championship title in 2005/06, scoring six goals and was again heavily involved in the Premier League campaign that followed.
Keane was the man who signed the above pair upon his initiation into the Stadium of Light dugout having played with them in Glasgow the season prior.
He won the second-tier title at the first time of asking (despite taking over with the club bottom of the league) and masterminded their survival the following year.