SUNDERLAND are among 17 teams keeping tabs on the talent in the upper echelons of the Belgian League.
Black Cats scouts watched table- toppers Club Brugge beat Anderlecht on Sunday night, but they were not alone, with representatives from another 16 clubs across Europe all present.
Manchester United, Everton and Burnley were there from the Premier League, along with Bundesliga quartet Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen, with Bordeaux, Marseille, Granada, AC Milan, Sassuolo Calcio, Charleroi, AS Eupen and KV Mechelen completing the scouting contingent.
Teenage striker Obbi Oulare, who got on the scoresheet after coming off the bench, has been rumoured to be the subject of much of the interest after breaking into the first-team picture at Brugge this season.
However, sources in Belgium have indicated that there is little prospect of Brugge selling Oulare this summer.
Brugge believe they have a real prospect on their hands, who could be worth in excess of £20million in the next couple of years
Sunderland have been watching players in the French, Spanish, Portugese and Dutch leagues ahead of their summer recruitment drive, with the Black Cats yet again in need of an injection of quality at the end of the season, should they remain in the Premier League.
Sporting director Lee Congerton and head coach Gus Poyet primarily focused on domestic-based players last summer, but Sunderland have found themselves in the thick of the relegation dogfight for the third successive year, and may opt for a change of approach this time around.
As reported last month, Liverpool centre-half Tiago Ilori – currently on a season-long loan at French side Bordeaux – is one player Sunderland have watched on several occasions, with his long-term future at Anfield in doubt.
London-born Ilori moved to Liverpool for £7million two years ago, but the Portugal Under-21 international has not featured in the first-team picture under Brendan Rodgers.
It is understood that Ilori will return to Liverpool at the end of his loan, with no option for Bordeaux to sign him permanently and the French side wary of the financial commitment that would entail.
Sunderland will be in the market for at least one central defender this summer, with Wes Brown out of contract and Sebastian Coates’ loan spell coming to an end.