New Sunderland manager Niall Quinn admits Julio Arca looks set to quit the club for local rivals Middlesbrough.
Boro have moved for the Argentine as they look to replace the departing Franck Queudrue - and Quinn has revealed that a clause in his contract means Arca is free to talk to any Premiership club.
And although Quinn says he will match any offer from the Teesside club - the lure of Premiership football looks too tempting for Arca.
"Unfortunately, I have inherited Julio's situation," said Quinn.
"There is a clause in his contract that allows him to speak to any Premiership club if they come in for him, and he is set for talks with Middlesbrough.
"He is a smashing player and I don't want him to go and I have said to him that after he has spoken to Middlesbrough then whatever they offer him we will match it.
"He has stayed loyal to us once before, but after that he then never got a look-in, so I wouldn't expect him to do so again.
"I think he has his heart set on going to Middlesbrough, and if he does then he will go with our blessing."
Sunderland had hoped to land Boro's exciting young - Wearside-born - winger Adam Johnson.
However, new Boro boss Gareth Southgate insists he is unlikely to leave, even on loan.
"If Sunderland are interested in Adam Johnson they won't be the only ones," said Southgate.
"We have had more inquiries this summer about Adam than about any other player.
"But we expected that. He showed in flashes at Rangers what a good player he can be.
"He is one of the players we believe can be the future of Middlesbrough Football Club."