A report from the Daily Mail claims Downing is currently in talks with the Championship side over a potential return to the club for a fee in the region of £6million, and while that would be a blow to the Black Cats, the Shields Gazette claims Dick Advocaat would swiftly move on.
The report claims Sunderland had planned to use Downing in the same attacking midfield position where he thrived for West Ham last season, rather than using him in his more familiar role on the wing.
Chelsea’s Marko van Ginkel and Feyenoord’s Jordie Clasie are reportedly both on Sunderland’s radar as potential alternatives for the central midfield position but both are far more defensive-minded than Downing is.
The 30-year-old shone in a more advanced central position for West Ham last season and ended the campaign with six goals and eight assists. However, with Dimitri Payet likely to take that exact role Downing would have been shunted back to the wing at best under Slaven Bilic.
As he gets older, playing infield is surely Downing’s future; it is just a shame for Sunderland that it seems they will not benefit from that…and perhaps West Ham, too, given the number of games they will have to play next season.