Sunderland join lower-half chasing pack for Celtic strike ace
With only a year remaining on his Celtic contract, the future of Gary Hooper will be the point of much contention this summer, with several Premier League outfits alerted to his potential availability.
And the Hoops may finally be ready to cash in on the poacher, who has netted 82 times in 137 appearances since arriving in Glasgow from Scunthorpe three years ago.
Tottenham were keen on the striker back in January, and were reportedly willing to part with around £12m to land him, though Neil Lennon decided Hooper’s value to Celtic’s Champions League exploits were worth more than that fee.
Now, despite valuing the 25-year-old at £7m, Lennon could be forced to oversee Hooper’s departure should he receive a bid in the region of £5m, in light of his contract situation.
And with that fee affordable to a number of sides in the lower echelons of England’s top flight, interest in Hooper is at a premium amongst the likes of Southampton, Norwich and Hull.
But Sunderland appear to have stolen a march into pole position to land the ex-Spurs trainee, given that they can offer far better wages than their competitors to his signature.
As only two top-flight sides notched less times than the Mackems this season too, Paolo Di Canio will assure Hooper plenty of first-team opportunities as he aims to rectify their troubles in front of goal.
And as Di Canio prepares to oversee a close season shake-up in which Danny Graham, Connor Wickham and Di Jong Won could all move on, his need to land a striker is all the more pressing.
Meanwhile, the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool are keen to contest the signature of Black Cats goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, and his departure would see Di Canio’s transfer kitty bolstered significantly.
That will only serve to enhance the Italian’s hopes of landing Hooper, but he has identified Burnley’s Charlie Austin as a back-up target should a surprise late suitor to the Celtic star’s services emerge.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.