Middlesbrough consider bid for Black Cat Arca
Middlesbrough are ready to turn to Sunderland wing-back Julio Arca as Gareth Southgate steps up his search for reinforcements.
It is understood talks are under way with the 25-year-old Argentinian, who was withdrawn from the Black Cats' squad for last night's friendly trip to Rotherham, ostensibly with a minor hamstring problem.
Frenchman Franck Queudrue has been linked with Fulham for some time - the interest dates back to January - and Southgate does not particularly want to lose the Frenchman.
However, Sunderland's relegation has opened up a window of opportunity and Boro have made their interest known in a man who would be a tailor-made replacement.
With the managerless Wearsiders a little more than a fortnight away from their opening Championship fixture, incoming chairman Niall Quinn will be looking for a swift decision.
Arca's recruitment would see him renew a partnership with England winger Stewart Downing.
The pair played together briefly during Downing's loan spell at Sunderland three seasons ago.
Quinn has held talks with the South American, who has a year remaining on his current contract, in a bid to persuade him that his future lies with the club he joined in a £3.5million move from Argentinos Juniors in 2000.
However, having demonstrated his loyalty by staying on after two previous relegations, there is a feeling that he could leave in the search for top-flight football.
Arca could have a series of options - Spanish side Espanyol have been tracking him, but their valuation of around £550,000 is way below that of Sunderland.
But Boro's swift action has put them in the driving seat.
Southgate is working hard behind the scenes to strengthen his squad after seeing his big-money move for Chelsea defender Robert Huth collapse.
That could yet be resurrected, but while his focus remains central defenders and a midfielder, the chance to capture Arca, who was an instant hit on his arrival in the Premiership, could be too good an opportunity to pass up.
By contrast, Sunderland have found themselves somewhat hamstrung by events off the pitch with Quinn's takeover bid ongoing and a new manager - the word on Wearside today was that departed Aston Villa boss David O'Leary is unlikely to be the man - still to be appointed.
The Irishman signalled his intention to leave player decisions on the squad to the manager, but with no-one yet in post he is having to sanction prospective deals himself.
Kenny Cunningham signed a one-year deal yesterday, while 20-year-old midfielder Grant Leadbitter put pen to paper on a two-year contract.
In addition, keeper Kelvin Davis could yet complete a move to Southampton after also being withdrawn from the squad for last night's game.