Kenwyne Jones has been unsettled by talk of a move to Liverpool, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce admitted on Tuesday.
The Trinidad and Tobago striker has been linked with a loan move to Anfield, something Reds boss Rafael Benitez played down on Monday.
But Bruce conceded the former Southampton front man did not look himself in last weekend's FA Cup loss at Portsmouth. "It certainly has unsettled him," said Bruce. "His performance on Saturday reiterated that - and that's my fear."
He added: "With all the speculation and nonsense that is surrounding him, he has had his head turned by a ludicrous notion that we are going to let him out on loan."
The player has netted just one goal in Sunderland's last 11 matches and Bruce admitted: "On Saturday it looked as if it (the speculation) had affected him. "
Jones, who signed a four-and-a-half year deal almost exactly a year ago, is a key figure as the out-of-form Wearsiders seek a first away win since the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season at Everton on Wednesday night.
Bruce continued: "There's no doubt the boy has got wonderful talent. The thing he has to do is make sure he does it repeatedly and regularly.
"Maybe over the last few weeks with all the nonsense which has been written about him, maybe his focus and his attention has not been playing on a Saturday, it's been elsewhere."
Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn spoke to Liverpool chief executive Christian Purslow over the weekend and Bruce added: "The situation, I'm led to believe, is led by agents, which I find unhealthy.
"We hope the whole thing is gone to bed and put away."
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