Sunderland have made Middlesbrough midfielder Grant Leadbitter their number one target for the January transfer window after their efforts to sign him on deadline day were rebuffed, according to the Sunderland Echo.
Simon Grayson was hoping to add Leadbitter to his squad, eight years after the now 31-year-old left to join Ipswich Town. Leadbitter spent seven years at the Stadium of Light, before moving to secure more regular game-time.
The ex-England U21 international finds himself in a similar position this season at Middlesbrough, having made just two appearances so far in the 2017/18 campaign. Manager Garry Monk refused to allow Leadbitter to leave, reportedly seeing him as a pivotal part of the squad for the season ahead.
However, Sunderland could face competition from Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, who both also reportedly moved to sign Leadbitter before the deadline day. Although, both Wednesday and Derby secured other midfielder signings, with Jacob Butterfield moving between the two clubs and Maikel Kieftenbeld joining the Rams from Birmingham just before the deadline.
The interest in Leadbitter could widen, however, as the playmaker has less than 12 months remaining on his contract and any suitors could potentially secure his services at a cut price.
Leadbitter would offer a more attacking threat for the Black Cats midfield, scoring 29 goals in his five seasons on Teeside at Middlesbrough. Leadbitter is yet to open his account this term but has suffered from a lack of continuous game-time to find his form.