Jermaine Defoe's Sunderland return on hold with Lee Johnson 'reluctant' to sign veteran striker

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Jermaine Defoe’s Sunderland return on hold with Black Cats manager Lee Johnson ‘reluctant’ to sign 39-year-old striker during January transfer window

  • Jermaine Defoe held talks with Sunderland over a return to Wearside this week
  • Black Cats manager Lee Johnson reportedly reluctant to sign 39-year-old
  • Former England international was released by Rangers earlier this month
  • Defoe is looking for short-term contract before retiring at the end of the season 
  • Striker scored 37 goals in 93 games for Sunderland between 2015 and 2017 


Sunderland manager Lee Johnson is reportedly reluctant to bring Jermaine Defoe back to Wearside, despite holding talks with the player.

Earlier this week, the veteran striker told talkSPORT he had discussed a possible return to the Stadium of Light with the club after being released by Rangers this month.

However, according to The Northern Echo, Johnson is not entirely sold on adding the 39-year-old to his squad during the January transfer window. Specifically, Johnson is said to be wary of adding a former international coming to the end of his career to the fold. 

Jermaine Defoe has held talks with Sunderland over a potential return to Wearside in January

Jermaine Defoe has held talks with Sunderland over a potential return to Wearside in January

Similarly, while Sunderland are looking to bolster their attacking options, there are doubts over the time Defoe will need to make an impact after playing only nine minutes this season. 

His age and wages could also be at odds with Johnson’s philosophy, which has so far been committed to developing youngsters and phasing out high-earners. 

Sunderland’s board, however, has reportedly made funds available to sign the former England international.

The 39-year-old scored 37 goals in 93 appearances for Sunderland between 2015 and 2017

The 39-year-old scored 37 goals in 93 appearances for Sunderland between 2015 and 2017

‘You’ve got the football side, you’ve got the condition of the player in terms of game time, you’ve got the injury record,’ Johnson said in his press conference this week. 

‘Everything has to be looked at it in fine detail.

‘Of course in principle it sounds like a fantastic idea but at the same time there’s so many intricacies that have to be right for all parties to be able to be comfortable and happy with any particular signing.’ 

Lee Johnson is reportedly reluctant to sign the 39-year-old in the January transfer window

Lee Johnson is reportedly reluctant to sign the 39-year-old in the January transfer window

Sunderland are third in League One behind and Wycombe and Wigan

Sunderland are third in League One behind and Wycombe and Wigan

Defoe, who is understood to be looking for a short-term contract before retiring at the end of the season, has also been in talks with Ipswich Town and Oxford United and a number of Championship clubs.

The report, however, added Defoe’s preference is to the return Sunderland, for whom he scored 37 goals in 93 appearances in all competitions during a two-and-a-half seasons spell between 2015 and 2017.

Sunderland are third in League One, trailing second-placed Wigan only on goal difference, although the Latics have played four fewer games. 

With 52 goals scored in 27 games, the Black Cats have the most prolific attack in the division. 

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