Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has hinted that record signing Asamoah Gyan is unlikely to return to the club.
The £13million-plus Ghana international striker is currently with United Emirates side Al-Ain on a season-long loan deal after securing a shock move away from the Stadium of Light in September.
O'Neill said: "There has to be a willingness on behalf of all parties as well; you wouldn't really want somebody who is really unwilling to come back to the football club, if that's the case. It's unfair of me to say that because it might not be the case, but it seems to be the message that's coming across."
The loan agreement was made three months before O'Neill succeeded Steve Bruce, the man who had signed the 26-year-old Gyan from French side Rennes barely 12 months earlier, and although there was talk of a return to Wearside in January, the lucrative agreement between the two clubs did not allow for that.
O'Neill added: "The situation is, I believe it was a year-long loan for a start for which they had to pay us some money of the transfer fee which we paid in the first place, and that is still in existence.
"There was some talk between all parties in January that didn't come to anything. I wasn't party to those conversations, although I was kept informed of them, of course.
"I think it will be the end of the season before I can assess anything."
While it would be no real surprise if Gyan did sever his ties with Sunderland, it would leave the Black Cats once again searching for a prolific goalscorer.
However, amid mounting speculation over potential targets and possible departures, O'Neill insists he is yet to speak to owner Ellis Short about his plans for the summer.
He said: "I haven't considered it and I certainly haven't had an opportunity to speak to a very important man at the football club who happens to own it. We will sit down, we will assess it. I think he is going to be here for the last couple of games of the season, which is encouraging."