Sunderland need to make significant progress before they can attract players of the calibre of Marouane Fellaini, says new boss David Moyes.
The Manchester United midfielder played at Everton for Moyes, who then took him to Old Trafford in 2013.
Sunderland’s boss suggested the door would be “wide open” for players of that quality to come to the club.
“I’d love to have that level of player,” said the Scot. “Realistically, that’s probably not going to happen.”
Sunderland have yet to make a senior signing this summer, partly because of the uncertainty surrounding Sam Allardyce, who eventually left to become England manager last month.
“We’ve got bids in for players just now,” said the 53-year-old Moyes, who signed a four-year contract on 23 July.
“We’re trying to strengthen the squad and I’m hopeful some of them will come off. In this market at the moment, you just never know.”
Moyes takes over a club that have finished in the Premier League’s bottom eight in all but one of the nine seasons since they were promoted from the Championship in 2007.
He believes that Sunderland can become a regular presence in the top half of the table but has acknowledged that it will take time.
“It wouldn’t be outrageous to see Sunderland being a regular top-10 team, but for some reason it hasn’t happened,” he said.
“We need to do the work, get it right and give everybody something to shout about. We have to feel that we’re not in this league just to survive every year.