EVERTON have made a formal approach to Sunderland in an attempt to sign Kieran Richardson this summer.
Toffees officials have inquired about the possibility of landing Richardson, who is about to enter the final 12 months of his current deal at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill must now decide whether to hold on to the 27-year-old, and potentially run the risk of him leaving for nothing in a year's time, or cash in and reinvest the money in his squad.
He will be reluctant to lose Richardson's versatility, and will have to sign a replacement left-back if he departs as the Black Cats are short of defensive cover in that position.
However, he may well conclude that after five years on Wearside, it will be to the benefit of both parties to have a change.
Everton are unlikely to be the only club interested if Sunderland indicate a willingness to move Richardson on.
West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce is a long-standing admirer of the former England international, and will be keen to make significant reinforcements following his side's success in last weekend's Championship play-off final.
Arsenal were linked with a possible loan move in the last transfer window, while newly-promoted Reading have also been credited with an interest in Richardson's services.
The former Manchester United trainee made 26 Premier League starts last season, and Craig Gordon's departure means he is now the longest-serving player on the club's books.
Whether Richardson leaves or not, O'Neill is determined to oversee a major overhaul of Sunderland's first-team squad.
He sanctioned the departure of nine players at the weekend, most of which were youngsters or reserve-team performers, and is keen to engineer a permanent deal that will see George McCartney remain at West Ham.
McCartney spent last season on loan at Upton Park, and after helping the Hammers win promotion to the Premier League, the Northern Irishman is desperate to secure a permanent contract in east London.
"Of course I would like to be here (West Ham) next year," said McCartney. "I have regrets about leaving a few years ago and I have got the opportunity to come back and things have gone really well.
"So hopefully in a few weeks' time when everything has settled down, we can sort something out.
"I was having a good season until the Birmingham game (in April) where I got concussion and when I came back, the manager kept the same team.
"So I can't get too disappointed because I have played my part this season. I have played 40 or 41 games this year and I am delighted."
Meanwhile, Sunderland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is set to deputise for Shay Given when the Republic of Ireland face Bosnia in their opening Euro 2012 warm-up game this weekend.
Given has injured his knee, and is due to have a scan to assess the full extent of the damage later this week.
At this stage, there is no suggestion the former Sunderland and Newcastle goalkeeper will miss Ireland's opening game of the European Championships against Croatia, but Westwood will attempt to prove he is capable of plugging a gap if it arises if he lines up at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.
* Bury have signed Trevor Carson on a two-year deal after the goalkeeper was released from Sunderland earlier this week.