Monsieur Salut writes: I got into trouble with a Salut! Sunderland reader, ‘Maw’ over at Twitter when I tweeted Jermain Defoe and said that while I might understand him wanting to leave at the end of the season, would he please stay for now? ‘Grow up,’ was the gist of my critic’s response and, while there was a germ of a serious point in what I had said, I ended up conceding defeat. The serious point holds good, especially if it is true, as speculated, that Defoe’s body language on Saturday suggested restlessness; whatever restructuring is needed – and by whom – come the summer, Defoe is our main, perhaps only hope of salvation between now and then. Alex McMahon agrees …
Jermain Defoe is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. The Sunderland man may be 34, but he certainly has not lost his mojo. The former England man has scored 12 goals and created as many chances in 21 Premier League appearances so far this season. That’s 57 per cent of the goals Sunderland have scored.
Defoe is arguably the best and most important player in David Moyes’s team [no argument necessary! – Ed], which is why Sunderland cannot afford to sell him in the January transfer window. They simply cannot. Without goals from the veteran striker, SAFC will almost certainly be relegated.
Goals, goals and goals
The odds of Sunderland going down to the Championship are 4/9 according to Betway. If they lose Defoe, then the odds will be shortened for sure. After all, who will score the goals? Without him, Moyes’s side will probably end up at the bottom of the table. With Defoe in the team, there is at least a chance – they are still just a point behind 17th-placed Crystal Palace.
When Sunderland narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League last season, the former West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Toronto FC striker was once again the saviour, scoring 15 goals and creating 21 chances in 33 league games.
West Ham United interest
Would it be hard to keep Defoe? Probably, especially with West Ham United interested in his services. The London club need a top quality striker in order to push for a top-10 finish and manager Slaven Bilic set his sights on bringing him back to the club.
Moreover, West Ham are Defoe’s boyhood club, and the striker himself admitted in November 2013 that it was a massive mistake to leave the Hammers for Tottenham in February 2004 for £6 million.
The Hammers themselves were struggling in the opening weeks and months of this season, but picked up some form in December and a top-half finish is within reach. Would Defoe be tempted to leave Sunderland and join a club where there is more security in terms of Premier League status?
Whatever Defoe’s thoughts may be on his future, Sunderland have to do their utmost to keep him until the end of the season. They should break the bank if they have to. If they value their top-flight status, they simply have to make sure he remains at the Stadium of Light until the end of the season.
Breaking the bank
Defoe’s current contract with Sunderland runs until June 2019, and perhaps the North East outfit should hand him a new and improved deal [he signed the contract last summer, though this might not rule out further incentives now – Ed]. If Sunderland are relegated, then they could sell him in the summer of 2017 for a decent price. Most mid-ranking clubs in the Premier League would be willing to spend £10m or so for a striker in his mid-30s who can score 15 goals in a season.
West Ham’s reported £13 million offer for Defoe may sound tempting, but Sunderland would not be able to find a proven Premier League goalscorer in January if trying to investing such money in a potential replacement. Would a striker – even one who is young and promising – signed from a foreign league be able to hit the ground running in England? Maybe, maybe not, but why take the risk in the first place?
For Sunderland to retain their chances of playing in the Premier League next season, they have to make sure that they do not sell Defoe at any price [according to Moyes, only one bid – the insulting £6m – was received, though West Ham did then invite Sunderlan, in vain, to name their price – Ed].