Deadline day despair in striker hunt but Sunderland boss hails arrival of ex-Lorient star and Manchester City defender
Transfer deadline day is a frantic 24 hours for clubs, players, agents and fans alike.
And it was no different at Sunderland’s Academy of Light as David Moyes and club officials worked late into the night.
Ultimately, to the frustrations of all involved – not least the club’s long-suffering supporters – two deals were done but there was no sign of the much-needed striker.
Sunderland also missed out on bringing in a new goalkeeper too, with a move for Mika Domingues from Boavista not completed in time.
It wasn’t for the want of trying, with Sunderland’s paperwork lodged and prepared. The problems were at the Boavista end.
But it just compounded a deeply frustrating end to what had earlier looked like being a promising deadline day, after a club-record fee shelled out for midfielder Didier Ndong.
Moyes only arrived on July 23 after Sam Allardyce had been poached by England. The summer of turmoil had paralysed the club in the transfer market.
When the 53-year-old Scot arrived, Sunderland had yet to make a single signing.
Sunderland, then hit by a mounting injury crisis, had effectively left themselves with far too much to do on deadline day.
Overall, Moyes managed to get eight through the door this summer but more were needed – a striker was an absolute must.
Now the club is left scratching around for free agents.
Steven Naismith, from Norwich City, couldn’t agree personal terms on a loan deal, while hopes for a last-minute move for Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa on a permanent deal came to nothing.
It is no secret Moyes has been working with a limited budget despite the bumper new television deal.
Sunderland – who posted an annual loss of £25million last year – spent £27.1million on transfers (plus loan fees for Adnan Januzaj, Javier Manquillo and Jason Denayer) but couldn’t match the level of transfer fees being splashed about by their rivals.
Two successful pieces of deadline day business were Ndong, from French side Lorient for a record £13.6million, and Manchester City centre-back Denayer on a season-long loan.
Chief executive Martin Bain had flown to Geneva to complete the deal for Ndong.
The Denayer deal was more straightforward, although that too was late in the day with City not giving the go-ahead until around 5pm after initial fears that he wasn’t coming.
The versatile defender completed his medical away from the North East before arriving at the Academy of Light yesterday for the first time.
Moyes believes the signing of Denayer – who became the club’s second and final domestic loan – was key, given he only had Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobodji and John O’Shea to call on at centre-back.
And it could mean he deploys a back-three at times this season.
The 21-year-old, capped eight times by Belgium, has spent the past two seasons out on loan at Celtic and Turkish side Galatasaray.
While playing for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, he was crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year and helped the Parkhead club to a league and cup double.
“We got Jason who will give us what we want, he can play centre half and full back,” Moyes said.
“They spoke incredibly highly of him in Scotland after his year at Celtic and he has played at Galatasaray last year.
“He only came on the market really late on deadline day, that made him interesting to us because I don’t think having Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobodji and John O’Shea was enough to get us through the season with the possibility of injury and suspension.
“We can also play three at the back with him – I wanted that flexibility.”
Ndong, who is currently on international duty with Gabon, joined the Black Cats on a five-year deal and arrives having made 46 appearances for the Ligue 1 team since joining them in January 2015.
Moyes believes Sunderland have a talent on their hands, and says the 22-year-old shares similar characteristics to Chelsea’s former Leicester City ace N’Golo Kante.
“Ndong, we had been pushing for, for quite a while, and we had always been told we weren’t getting him,” revealed Moyes.
“It was only two or three days ago that we started to get a bit of a feeling that there was a chance of us getting him.
“He is someone who we have all had a look at and we liked the look of his energy – he is young and he will improve with time.
“What I have tried to get is younger players, most of them are younger, to get energy.
“I think he has a personality to his play – we will see that when he plays.
“I wouldn’t say he is Kante, but there is a little bit of that in his make-up and, because he is young, it is about the development of what he can become in the future.”
Ndong is, though, set to miss the first Premier League game back after the international break against Everton on Monday, September 12.
With Sunderland scouts watching on, Ndong was sent off 30 minutes into the game against Bastia and will now complete his suspension in England.
“We have had to put people straight in the team. We might have a few more back by next week, we hope,” said Moyes, who has German midfielder Jan Kirchhoff back in training.