Sebastian Coates says he is not thinking about his future, but not before admitting he could see himself staying at Sporting Lisbon.
Sunderland defender Sebastian Coates has hinted that he could be set for a permanent exit from the club this summer by admitting he is "very happy" in Portugal playing for Sporting Lisbon, as quoted by the Sunderland Echo.
The Uruguayan defender impressed in the back end of last season whilst on loan at the Stadium of Light from Liverpool, becoming a key figure as the club went five matches unbeaten to avoid relegation.
After making the move permanent for around £2 million last summer the 25-year-old initially seemed to have retained his place as a regular, but after falling down the pecking order in January he was allowed to move to Sporting on loan at the end of the window.
Since the switch to Portugal, the former Liverpool man has made seven appearances for the Lisbon side, as well as earning a recall to the Uruguay national squad.
When asked about his future, Coates admitted that he and his family are happy and settled in Portugal, fuelling speculation that he will not return to England.
He told Portuguese journalists, as quoted by the Echo: "It's premature to talk about that [my future]. What I can say is that I'm very happy here.
"I've found a club that has the ambition to win the championship, to qualify for the Champions League. Personally I am very happy, we'll see. Besides, my family is already adapted to Lisbon.
"However, while we are in competition with things to decide, I'd rather not talk about these issues."
Injuries and a high level of competition have restricted Coates' success in England, and he may well feel that the fresh start offered to him by Sporting would be of more benefit to his career than continuing to struggle for a first-team place at Sunderland.
In four years at Liverpool the 25-year-old made just six Premier League starts, and after his spell on Wearside appears to have fizzled out it would not be too much of a surprise to see him make a permanent exit in the summer, with Sporting holding the option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season.
Sam Allardyce currently has veteran Premier League centre-backs Wes Brown, John O'Shea, Younes Kaboul to choose from in the heart of defence, along with Valentin Roberge and January signing Lamine Kone, with Jan Kirchhoff also able to play behind his current deep-lying midfield role.