According to reports Sunderland face a uphill battle to keep hold of League Cup stars, Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley,Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson as they may leave on frees this summer. Everton, QPR and Aston Villa are all said to be interested.
The Daily Mail reports that contract talks between the four influential players and Sunderland are nearing breaking point as the parties are struggling to agree terms.
All four featured for Sunderland in their League Cup final defeat to Manchester City, last weekend.
Former Manchester United player Phil Bardsley is said to be in extensive talks with the club over a new deal but isn't happy with the terms that are currently on offer. Bardsley was frozen out under former manager Paulo Di Canio after a spat with the Italian after the 28 year-old and was suspended by the club after mocking their opening day defeat to Fulham. After being reinstated to the Black Cats starting 11, he has put in some impressive performances which has led him to be linked with Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.
The Daily Mirror report that Sunderland academy graduate, Jack Colback, is a target for Everton as the are looking for a replacement for loanee Gareth Barry. Everton's interest will certainly worry Sunderland manager Gus Poyet as he wouldn't like to lose the valuable youngster. Colback has played in a number of positions this term for Sunderland and has been a key man since Poyet took over. Colback's versatility, energy and work rate will make him an attractive option for a host of Premier League clubs come the end of the season.
Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson both look set to leave at the end of the season who have both appeared under Poyet in a rotational roles. It is reported that the pair have yet to begin contract negotiations with the club, which casts doubt over the future for the former Birmingham players. Gardner, who cost £6 Million in 2011, was linked with a move to Championship club Queens Park Rangers in the January and R's boss Harry Redknapp may attempt to persuade Gardner to join the West London club.
Swedish International, Seb Larsson's appearances have mainly come from the bench this season and looks set to leave the North East in the summer.
Sunderland may also find themselves without key players, Fabio Borini, Marco Alonso and Ki Sung-Yueng at the end of the season as their is doubt over the future of the trio of loanees. However, the Black Cats remain hopefully of keeping hold of all three if they can beat the drop this season.
Sunderland are back in cup action is weekend as they face Hull City in the FA Cup quarter finals, with another appearance at Wembley just 90 minutes away.
Can Sunderland keep hold of their star players?
image: © Ben Sutherland