Jeremain Lens’ Sunderland future revolves around whether the winger is willing to fight for his place at the Stadium of Light, insists Sam Allardyce.
Lens made his first start in more than three months in Allardyce’s much-changed line-up for the final day clash at Watford, with the 28-year-old registering an assist and a goal in the 2-2 draw.
But Lens’ muted goal celebrations in front of the away end at Vicarage Road appeared a clear sign of the Dutch international’s frustrations with life at Sunderland after being limited to a fringe role under Allardyce.
It is understood that the big reservation over Lens from Sunderland’s coaching team has been his attitude, and the club do expect him to depart this summer just 12 months after he joined the Black Cats.
Yet publicly at least, Allardyce has not shut the door on the unquestionably talented Lens, when asked about the ex-PSV man’s future.
Allardyce said: “It depends what Lens wants to do – stay or fight or move on.
“He’ll decide that when we have a conversation.”
Ex-Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat – who had enjoyed two previous spells working with Lens – brought him to the club last summer in an initial £8million deal, which had the possibility of rising to £13m depending on add-ons.
But before he resigned last October, Advocaat had raised concerns about Lens’ inability to offer a helping hand defensively and that was immediately identified as a big issue by Allardyce.
He earned a recall to the starting fold last January in a number 10 role, yet following the acquisition of Wahbi Khazri, he struggled to even get a spot on the bench, albeit he spent a month on the sidelines with a hernia.
Ajax were linked with a move for Lens during the January transfer window, but with another three years to run on a lucrative Sunderland contract, the Dutch side may struggle to meet the Black Cats’ asking price.