Jermain Defoe wants to re-join West Ham United summer when he leaves Sunderland this summer, according to ex-striker Tony Cottee. Despite having two years to run on his contract at the Stadium of Light, the England forward is eligible for a free transfer due to the Black Cats' relegation to the Championship. He has subsequently been linked with moves to AFC Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion.
The evergreen hitman has netted 15 Premier League goals this season – making him the third highest scoring Englishman behind only Tottenham Hotspur pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli – but it was not enough to keep David Moyes' side from dropping into the second tier with three games of the campaign to spare. Relegation has triggered a clause in Defoe's contract that allows him to leave for nothing this summer, and several big-name clubs are ready to take advantage.
Sunderland's arch-rivals Newcastle are among them, according to The Sun. Owner Mike Ashley is prepared to back manager Rafael Benitez in the transfer window and could match the player's wage demands which stand at £80,000-per-week (The Evening Standard). West Ham have also been mentioned a possible destination for Defoe 13 years on from his first spell at the club and Cottee believes that emotional attachment could prove pivotal.
"Yes, I think he will [be interested]," Cottee told Sky Sports. "I think that's his preferred choice. Obviously it depends on the owners and the people running West Ham. Would I like him there? Yes I would. He's a goalscorer and it's hard to buy goalscorers now. People say he's 34, but with the modern game, I think it's easier to play at a latter age.
"I retired at 35, but I think you can now play at the age of 36, 37 in the Premier League and Jermain has done it this year, scored a lot of goals and led the line on his own with not a lot of support. Bournemouth will be in for him and many other clubs, but I think his preferred option would be West Ham."
Defoe came through the West Ham academy, spending five years at the club and scoring 29 goals in 94 appearances before going on to join Tottenham in 2004. Hammers boss Slaven Bilic is likely to be in the market for a striker this summer given the inconsistency and dubious fitness levels of Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho.
Despite another former club Bournemouth – where he scored in a then record 10 consecutive matches during a loan spell on the south coast – representing another possible destination, Newcastle's ambition may prove too great a temptation for the veteran. However, whether he would be willing to trade in Sunderland for their closest rivals remains to be seen.
Having committed his future to Newcastle and given guarantees over his freedom in the upcoming summer transfer window, Benitez is in a strong position to build on the club's return to the top flight at the first time of asking.