Beyond belief: mountains to climb if Koné goes to Everton or Chelsea

Lamine Kone: will he get to keep the shirt?
Lamine Koné: would he get to keep the shirt as a souvenir (photo courtesy of SAFC)?

The loss of Lamine Koné would not only be a huge blow to Sunderland just as we were all hoping for a much better start to the season. If the fans’ worst fears are justified, it would also threaten to bring David Moyes’s honeymoon period to an abrupt end …

STOP PRESS UPDATE: Fans spoke to Koné after training today and the player said he had been “promised a new contract”, reinforcing his agent’s comment that none had been offered. When asked if he would like to remain at SAFC, he replied: “Yeah.”

While thanking Sunderland AFC for kindly sending an image of the new, rather impressive away top, I added a postscript: “Seeing who is wearing it makes me want to cry!”

It was only the slightest of exaggerations.

The increasingly likely departure of Lamine Koné – unless all the reports, including those in the local North-eastern press, are completely wrong – would represent an even bigger setback than the impact on our preseason of the FA’s plodding handling of Sam Allardyce’s appointment as England manager.

Here is a mightily impressive centre back who, in the mould of Charlie Hurley and Dave Watson, also gets forward and can score important goals. He cost only £5m when he arrived last January from the French Ligue 1 club Lorient and, in just 15 starts proved himself as capable and complete a defender as we have had since the Roker Park days of that pair of heroes.

The interest shown first by Everton and Leicester and now, reportedly, Chelsea is as gloomy a development as can be imagined at a time when we should belatedly be strengthening the side, not weakening it so grievously.

Koné was signed until 2020. Obviously, there are get-out clauses and relatively few players these days are seriously expected to see out long contracts. We just didn’t bargain on losing such a star after a woefully short spell of service to SAFC.

In theory, a deal taking him to the smaller stadiums of Goodison (capacity 39,572) or Stamford Bridge (41,663), both below our average attendance in a fourth-bottom season, leaves David Moyes with not one but two mountains to climb.

Earlier in the week, I posted this tweet:

While we cannot pretend to know the full story of how this bombshell has landed, propelling its shrapnel into our preseason hopes, it seems by no means sure for Moyes or the club has done anything of the sort.

This is how Richard Mennear puts it in the Shields Gazette:

There had been no indication during the course of pre-season that Koné wanted to leave Wearside, with the defender understood to have been wanting a new deal.

Mennear reminds us of the less than reassuring tone struck by Moyes last week: “I’m always going to keep the best players, but I’m also going to move the club along. At different times things will have to change. We [Everton] had to sell Wayne Rooney, Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell, Joleon Lescott, but it didn’t affect the club, the club moved on.”

We’re told he has now lined up two promising Manchester United defenders, Paddy McNair and Donald Love, to boost his back four. I accept these might both be excellent prospects, but the arrival of one or both would not even begin to compensate for the wretched disappointment of losing Koné.

So to the mountains Moyes may have to scale? First, while most fans will still back him 100 per cent as he starts his first season, that will now owe more to blind faith than to reason if it turns out he was happy to raise funds for acquisitions by sacrificing one of his best players (if not the best).

And the second: the men brought in between now and the end off the month must prove him right or he will take the flak (again assuming the negotiations over Koné are not taking place against his own judgement).

Now over to the Salut! Sunderland jury. It would be premature to run a poll since we do not have the full facts, and no deal has yet been done. Our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson even expects Koné may play for us at the Etihad on Saturday (but against us for Everton in our second home game). And Richard Mennear is also reporting, in the Gazette’s sister paper, the Sunderland Echo, that the player’s agent says he is available for selection against Man City on Saturday (adding, ominously: “However, he still awaits the offer of the new contract”).

Have your say. If Sunderland are willing to sell such a key player with four years left on his contract, is that a potentially calamitous gamble – or a shrewd move? I veer towards the first assessment but want to be made to eat my words.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

20 thoughts on “Beyond belief: mountains to climb if Koné goes to Everton or Chelsea”

  1. I’m pleased to see us signing some young players with potential. IMO we have in recent years made the mistake of signing players nearing the end of their careers, who have no sell on value.

    This is not to say that some of them have not done a great job [ Defoe and O’Shea for instance ] but I think there should always be a mixture of young and experienced players.

    McNair, for example may turn out to be another Jonny Evans, and Love another Danny Rose, in which case they are likely to be great players for our club, and if/when they leave, they are likely to make a decent profit.

    We should certainly try to keep Kone, but this will largely depend on whether he wishes to play his football at Sunderland.

  2. It’s official now. Two signed from Man Utd. Interesting comment from Moyes:

    “I want to add some young players to the squad as well as some senior players and both of them have got really good potential and the opportunity to improve. I want to bring in players who are here for the long-term as well as the short and hopefully these two are here for the long-term.”

    It’s certainly possible that Kone’s agent is trying to push up the value of any new contract offered – he has three and a half years left on his current deal and the club is trying to show that it won’t be held to ransom, knowing that if it succumbs other players could push for improved deals.

    Still think they should do all they can to keep him though.

  3. Meanwhile, we’re getting McNair and Love from ManU, with Januzaj coming on loan?That’s something, I guess. But I’m pinning my hopes on ESPN reporting that the Kone move could fall through because Everton don’t want to doa cash-plus-Jagielka deal with SAFC. Fine with me, let them keep their guy as long as we keep ours.

  4. Is it just me or is the club starting to drip feed more positive morsels to the media with just over 72 hours till the first match?

  5. We could have the 21st century equal of Charlie Hurley in Kone. Would we have sold Charlie coming to the height of his powers,,, Answer NO. Should we sell Kone …Answer NO. If Moyes intends to build a team for the future then dont sell a really big building block . Perhaps in Knone the club would not be selling such a block but more like part of the building plot… + 18 mill is under priced if a deal is done it should be more like 30 using Stones as par DONT DO IT.

  6. A small article in The Sun (I use it to wrap my tater peelings in) suggests Jagielka will be paid £75K weekly if he comes. Therefore pay Kone £80K. Everyone’s happy.

  7. Give the lad a contract offer for heaven’s sake,

    I just wonder if his last club had a sell-on clause which might enable SAFC to keep him despite an attractive “offer”.

    We have been starved of a good CH for many years. I had hoped that a big unit like Alfred N’Diaye might have been converted into that role but that wasn’t to be.Now we look to lose an even bigger unit in Kone.

    If we hit relegation difficulties we need someone like him not a lighter ball playing CH that Moyes might prefer. It’s called “insurance”.

  8. I hope these are just rumours about mediocre ex everton players coming to Sunderland. We need ten more Kone’s not one less. Are we even trying to be successful? Not if we sell him to a rival.
    Maybe Moyes wants to be rid of all of the good recent signings? He couldnt stand to owe a debt to Allerdyce. Where is the consolidation? We need M’villa and Kone. Dont sell one of our best players and replace him with dross!
    Of course we may never know the truth about all this but for Gods sake dont sell him to a rival!!!

  9. This is a big test for Moyse, Bain and Short. The constraints of FFP and of not making exceptional awards to one player whilst others miss out make it difficult to award big pay rises. But for fans who saw an echo of the way Charlie Hurley would dominate in both penalty areas losing Kone would be a major disappointment. Somehow those three need to find a way to keep Kone. My fear is that Moyse wants a more cultured pair of central defenders rather than the speed and power that is Kone and Kaboul. The fact that Everton, Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal seem interested in Kone tells you that Kone is an exceptional talent. Sort it out!

  10. What I haven’t really got my head around is how the Financial Fair Play rules impact on transfer policy. Back in January it looked as if we couldn’t afford Kone until Fletcher and Graham went out on loan, reducing the wage bill.

    At the moment we are still paying Bridcutt a fair wack and you can bet we are still paying more than half of Buckley and Matthews weekly wage.

    Having said that it doesn’t seem to bother clubs of a similar size to SAFC. There was talk that Kone was to be offered an improved deal and that would make sense – and I hope GN is correct. But even if he does want to stay I am still fearful that all the publicity suggesting he will go, might just be enough to make it happen. But should we let him go even for £20 million it will be a clear statement of the club’s priorities.

    Even before the FA came a calling there were signs that Allardyce was in conflict with the owner over the club’s recruitment policy. Advocaat also appeared to feel let down after the strenuous efforts to bring him back.

    Despite Short’s assurances that Moyes was always the man he wanted I am beginning to feel that he was also made promises that are not coming to fruition.

    Where’s M’Vila? Without him and if Kone does leave the vital spine of the team is seriously weakened.

    With two relatively inexperienced Man Utd defenders reportedly undergoing medicals I am revising my view that Lamine will be in the side on Saturday.

  11. We won’t be able to sign anyone better than Kone so what good is any transfer fee barring a ridiculous 50 million . Even then I wouldn’t trust our club to spend it wisely or even spend it at all . I feel sick .

    • Aye so do I 2nite we are a set of amateurs some of our so called fans have turned on kone it’s our club that’s the problem in all me life and I’m owld I’ve never felt as dissilutioned what a penny pinching outfit we are when they talk of SAFC as a huge club the reality is we are nowt of the sort I won’t sleep 2nite wonder if Ellis short and the rest o the misfits can.

  12. I feel sick! Is this some sort of mad plan to allienate the loyal SAFC supporters. Selling our iconic centre back, iconic after 15 starts, to a team that we would have targeted as a goal to surpass this season seams……nasty!
    But more concerning to me is the background hints that we were looking at Jagielka as make way for the deal, and scouting Naismith last weekend. No sell on value on either player and SAFC going immediately to the same old tactics of panic buying to sustain a premiership dream that they don’t seem to be able to afford.
    Can anyone honestly justify the rape of our club by selling its future, unbelievable, unfair but maybe expected. I feel sick.

  13. (via Salut! Sunderland’s Facebook group)

    Nicely balanced summing up of the situation.

    I believe Kone wants to give SAFC another season. His twitter feed is all pro SAFC and its fans.

    There’s no doubt his head is being turned, with offers from better footballing clubs than us including 2 recent Premier league champions.

    As a player you have to be flattered, and you have to look at your options.

    As a club we have to do the same

    Plan a….improve his contract to match what others would pay a top class centre half.

    Plan b….publically announce hes not for sale, forcing the players hand.

    Plan c….slap a £30 million price tag on him, giving £23 million profit for his replacement.

    I’m sure any SAFC fan would love another year of Kone, i know i would.

  14. I am hopeful this is just his agent trying to get a better contract for Kone at Sunderland. Send him to Everton to find out what they are offering so he can negotiate stronger at our end.

    The club also did this with Cattermole and Stoke so they could be simply playing the game to divert people away from their main targets.

    Who knows but if Kone goes I for one will be regretting renewing the four season tickets we have in our household

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