Middlesbrough star Stewart Downing has told BBC Radio Tees that Sunderland did make a bid to sign him from West Ham this summer.
Downing, 31, impressed for West Ham last season, scoring six goals in 37 games and even earning a recall to the England side as a result.
However, the midfielder sprung a surprise this summer, leaving Upton Park in order to move down to the Championship with Middlesbrough.
Downing was born and bred in Middlesbrough, and came up through the ranks on Teesside before leaving for Aston Villa in 2009 having suffered relegation to the second tier with Boro.
His move back to the Riverside Stadium earlier this summer was an emotional one, but it could have been all so different if Sunderland had moved quicker for him.
Downing has told BBC Radio Tees that Sunderland - Middlesbrough's North East rivals - did make a bid to sign him, and Downing had to consider that move, but ultimately wanted the move to Middlesbrough instead.
"Sunderland did make an offer to West Ham, and it was something I had to think about," said Downing. "But once I’d spoken to Steve and been given permission to speak to Middlesbrough, there was only one place I wanted to come," he added.
Sunderland did end up adding attacking reinforcements in Jeremain Lens and Ola Toivonen, but signing a proven Premier League playmaker like Downing would have been a valuable addition for Dick Advocaat's men.
Instead, Downing decided to go back to his hometown club and help them win promotion back to the Premier League, even despite the chance to stay at West Ham, who are one of the more ambitious clubs in the top flight right now with their imminent move to the Olympic Stadium.