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Sunderland: Remembering when Keane wanted Forlan

Sunderland sporting director Kristjaan Speakman struck gold in January 2021 when he brought in Scottish forward Ross Stewart from Ross County.

The striker has enjoyed a brilliant time with the Black Cats so far and is currently sat on 34 goals and eight assists in 72 competitive outings for the club, including five goals and three assists in seven Championship matches this term.

He is following in the footsteps of the likes of Kevin Phillips, Darren Bent, and Jermain Defoe in terms of strikers who have been successful on Wearside over the years.

There is another name who could have been on that list and that is Uruguayan predator Diego Forlan, who was wanted by Roy Keane during his tenure in charge between 2006 and 2008.

Speaking to The Athletic in 2021, the now-retired striker revealed that the Irish manager attempted to bring him to the Stadium of Light.

“I had to leave United for Villarreal. Something inside told me I needed to turn a page, start again. And I’m glad I did, that season turned everything around for me, but I could have gone back to England several times.

Would Forlan have been a great signing?





“Roy Keane called me when he was at Sunderland. ‘Diego’, he said. ‘I know you like a beach — we have one here at Sunderland’.”

The former Manchester United teammates did not end up linking up once again as the forward opted against arriving on Wearside. Instead, he signed for Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007, with Keane seemingly unable to convince him to make the switch back to England.

Forlan scored 17 times in 97 matches for the Red Devils near the start of his career before finding his feet in Spain with Villarreal, where he plundered 58 goals in 125 outings.

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Sunderland striker Ross Stewart in action

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His form for the Spanish side was enough to attract the interest of Sunderland and their failure to snap him up turned out to be a mistake on their part as he went on to enjoy a sublime spell in Madrid.

After making the move to the capital, Forlan scored 96 goals and provided 31 assists in 198 matches in all competitions. This included him netting 32 goals and assisting ten in 33 La Liga appearances in the 2008/09 campaign.

The prolific centre-forward also found the back of the net 36 times in 112 caps for Uruguay throughout his career, proving himself to be an elite striker on the international stage as well as in Spain. During the 2010 World Cup, Mark Lawrenson went as far as to say that he could “play in his slippers” in matches.

His impressive 224-goal career haul suggests that he could have been a fantastic signing for Sunderland, as he was superb in front of goal for Villarreal and Atletico, and that is why Keane made a blunder by failing to snap him up.