Sunderland’s record-signing Didier Ndong is still finding his feet in the Premier League since his summer move to the Stadium of Light.
The 22-year-old joined the Black Cats from Ligue 1 side FC Lorient for £13.5 million on transfer deadline day earlier this year, and has so far struggled to adapt to England’s top-flight.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) December 20, 2016
He has however shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, especially in Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday – where his solid midfield performance alongside loanee Jason Denayer was possibly his best in a red-and-white shirt to date.
But one thing that seems to constantly hang over the Gabon international’s head is who he is not.
He is not Yann M’Vila.
Black Cats fans were left heartbroken with news that ex loan-star M’Vila would not be returning to the club on a permanent basis in January, even though a pre-contract agreement was in place.
Boss David Moyes said that this was due to the France international’s lack of commitment to the Wearsiders – with the 53-year-old only wanting fully-pledged personnel involved in his side’s battle for survival.
Sunderland reportedly had the chance to confirm the permanent signing during the summer, but Rubin Kazan were demanding up to £10m for the midfielder who only had six months left on his contract.
The Stadium of Light hierarchy thought it was not financially viable to pay the ransom, even after M’Vila had travelled to London for his connection flight to the Academy of Light.
But something that the red-and-white army still question today is the lack of funds available for a fan-favourite, but there was even more to spend on an unknown.
The transfer fee for Ndong raised eyebrows throughout the North East – with the hard-tackling midfielder only having joined Lorient for less than £1m just 18 months earlier.
So has the transfer been justified?
Well so far, no.
But that does not mean that the 22-year-old Premier League newbie may not go on to do great things for the football club.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) December 10, 2016
If the defensive-minded midfielder continues to consistently improve similar to that of last weekend, then it is inevitable that the Sunderland faithful will take to the previously dubbed ‘next Michael Essien’.
However, if Ndong reverts back to his early season form, he will be latched upon quickly as a weak link.
Moyes put his neck on the line with the decision to bring the unproven youngster to Wearside on a hefty price-tag instead of beloved M’Vila, and if his side were to be relegated it would surely be something that was held against him.