Modibo Diakite’s agent denies a deal has been struck with Sunderland, but Napoli are looking to Udinese’s Mehdi Benatia instead.
The defender has been frozen out at Lazio for several months after refusing to sign a new deal, as he will be out of contract in the summer.
La Repubblica newspaper claims 26-year-old Diakite has already agreed terms with Sunderland and their manager Paolo Di Canio, as Napoli were taking too long to complete the negotiations.
In turn, it is now suggested that Napoli have turned their attention towards Udinese centre-back Benatia instead.
Diakite has been linked with several Premier League clubs, including Liverpool and Everton.
“It was almost all done with Napoli. Unfortunately, we have different time-sensitive requirements and have therefore decided to take different paths,” agent Ulisse Savini told lalaziosiamonoi.
“English football is intriguing and Di Canio has brought great enthusiasm, but for now I haven’t spoken to anyone from Sunderland. If they were to call, we’d be honoured to talk to them.”