David Moyes insists Sunderland will not sell "priceless" striker Jermain Defoe next month because he represents their best chance of staying in the Premier League.
The 34-year-old's goals have proved invaluable to the Black Cats since his return to English football from Toronto two years ago, and the eight he has managed so far this season have rekindled the club's hopes of mounting yet another successful survival fight.
West Ham are understood to have an interest in their former player, but despite Sunderland's need to boost their transfer kitty and reduce their wage bill to aid their own recruitment plans, they have no plans to cash in on Defoe.
Moyes said: "He's priceless, isn't he? There is not a price we could put on his head because he's so important to us staying as a Premier League club.
"He's scored us eight goals just now and if he scores us another eight or 10 in the second half of the season, it will give us a great opportunity of staying up.
"We won't sell him, but we obviously can't stop people talking about it and writing about it."
Defoe's importance to Sunderland cannot be over-estimated and he has been joined in that bracket by summer recruit Victor Anichebe, a man who started the season as a free agent without a club and has since established himself as a key figure in Moyes' team.
The manager, who first worked with Anichebe at Everton, said: "Victor's form has been incredible. I don't think you could put a value on what Victor's worth at the moment for us, the way he has played.
"I don't know how much it would cost us to go out on the high street and try to buy a Victor Anichebe somewhere, but it would be a lot of money.
"But what I've got to be mindful of is there are so many games around Christmas time (and with) us having a small squad, I have to try to maximise Victor, Jermain and the players who can help us make a difference during the games."
Moyes will return to former club Manchester United on Boxing Day adamant that the scars of his brief spell in charge at Old Trafford have faded and intent only on continuing a recovery which has seen his side win four of its last seven Premier League games.
He said: "We are in a good position because we have got ourselves back in it. We have won some games, which for a wee while we didn't look like doing, so we are back in fighting and we have got to keep doing that.
"We've got a difficult Christmas period - that's why the result against Watford was really important for us at the start of it last week.
"We go there knowing that Manchester United are beginning to find a little bit of form and we have to go there and try to stop them."