Sunderland hopeful of Riveros deal

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The Independent Football

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce hopes to send out a message of intent within the next week as he attempts to complete a deal for Paraguay international Cristian Riveros.

The Black Cats could secure a top-10 Barclays Premier League finish this season if they win their final game at Wolves on Sunday, but the manager is already starting to focus on next term.

He today confirmed the club is at an advanced stage in negotiations to snap up 27-year-old midfielder Riveros, who is currently playing his club football in Mexico with Cruz Azul, and could make the breakthrough within the next seven days.

The Paraguayan, who looks set to go to the World Cup this summer along with potential new club-mate Paulo da Silva, has been in Bruce's sights for some time, and a successful conclusion to the ongoing discussions would see him finally get his man.

Bruce said: "We have been working a long time on Riveros. I tried to sign him two years ago - I was quoted £12million and couldn't afford him.

"He's a middle-of-midfield player who can play on either side as well and something different to what we have got.

"He will go to the World Cup with Paraguay.

"We are close, we are very, very close and I wouldn't be surprised if we can get him in the next week or so."

Bruce has mined a rich seam in Central and South America in recent years, working with the likes of Wilson Palacios, Antonio Valencia and Maynor Figueroa, and made Da Silva one of his first signings after arriving at the Stadium of Light last summer.

He knows it can take time for players from the other side of the Atlantic to settle into English football, but is confident there is real talent available in that market.

The Sunderland boss will concentrate on adding a handful of quality players to his squad this summer rather than dealing in the numbers game, and he sees Riveros' capture as a good kicking-off point.

He said: "In football, we always want to keep progressing. We are busy working away now as we speak and we hope we can announce a signing in the next seven days.

"I would hope that would start the summer off with good intent."

Bruce revealed the club is close to agreeing a new one-year contract with 33-year-old Holland midfielder Bolo Zenden - indeed, the former Barcelona man's father, Pierre, has told Dutch media the deal is done.

However, the former Wigan manager dismissed speculation that Udinese's Simone Pepe and Manchester City's Stephen Ireland are on his radar, and insisted there is no truth in repeated links with Tottenham striker Robbie Keane, currently on loan at Celtic.

In the short term, Bruce will look to end the current season on a high note by making a final push for a top-half finish, although he knows one of his predecessors in the hot-seat on Wearside, Mick McCarthy, will have markedly different ideas after securing his own club's Premier League status.

He said: "He has done a fantastic job with a restricted budget and a young, vibrant team who epitomise what Mick is all about.

"They are all young, work hard, athletic, and he has got his rewards by sticking to his belief in young players and keeping Wolverhampton up, which I am sure every one of them will be delighted about."

Sunderland will go into the game without Lee Cattermole, who has a shoulder injury, and serial hamstring victim John Mensah, while midfielder David Meyler today underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his right knee.

Bruce said: "He has just been operated on this morning, and I have to be honest and say it's possibly the worst news. It was probably worse than expected.

"He's got an horrific injury which, thankfully, the surgeon has put right.

"But it's going to take a hell of a long time for him to get back playing again.

"It's devastated the lot of us, to be honest. But he will be back. He's a tough cookie, and he will need to be."