Bruce targets Dunne to shore up Black Cats defence

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The Independent Football

Sunderland have joined what now appears to be a three-way battle to sign Richard Dunne from Manchester City this summer. Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur are believed to be the other two clubs to have expressed an interest in the centre-half, who is said to be available for around £5m as Mark Hughes rejigs his squad at Eastlands.

Arsenal's Kolo Touré has been linked with a move to City since the beginning of last season, and Everton's Joleon Lescott is also seen as a target. Should Dunne leave, that would seem to signal the arrival of one or both of those defenders. City may have to pay as much as £15m-£20m for either Touré or Lescott but money is unlikely to be a hazard to them.

With the new Sunderland manager Steve Bruce having identified central defence as a position he needs to strengthen, Dunne would be an ideal fit at the Stadium of Light. Bruce spoke last week at his unveiling on Wearside of shopping at a higher level than at Wigan and Dunne would fall into that category.

With Nyron Nosworthy injured for much of last season, Sunderland signed two centre-halves, Calum Davenport and Tal Ben Haim, on loan as cover, but both have returned to their clubs and Dunne would be an experienced partner for Anton Ferdinand. Nosworthy will also be available again next season.

At 29, Dunne has had another strong season with City. He joined in 2000 from Everton for £3m and was made club captain three years ago. It is only 12 months since he signed a new four-year contract at City, but the new wealthy ownership means the club are looking to recruit heavily this summer in order to mount a serious challenge to the top four next season.

Sunderland said yesterday they will visit Hearts for a friendly a week before the first Saturday of next season.