The Nearly Men (Part 1): The Ones Who Got Away

Dennis Grombkowski

Last summer was something of a marathon for Sunderland fans following the club's transfer business. Plenty signed - too many some would say - but even more got away. In this mini-series, Roker Report guest Gavin Henderson looks at those who went elsewhere.

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The transfer window in the summer of 2013 was perhaps one of the most eventful that we've ever seen at the club. With a huge rebuilding job on their hands and a relatively small budget to play with, Ellis Short enlisted the services of respected former football agent Roberto De Fanti in a bid to revitalise a tiny squad with limited resources.

Opinion on the De Fanti reign is largely split down the middle within our support and it's harrd to deny that whilst we made some absolute howlers with regards to player recruitment we also did some good business and when you consider the sheer amount of players brought in to the football club it would have been an absolute miracle if each and every transfer deal we completed were a resounding success.

We seemed to spend large parts of the summer chasing players that, even after weeks of negotiations, we weren't for one reason or another able to bring them in.

The question is, how did those players do last season after failing to rock up on Wearside? I've taken a look at the most prominent ones, the players most of us were convinced were going to be ours.

Gino Peruzzi

The saga which enraged after we attempted to clinch the signing of international full back Gino Peruzzi from Argentinian side Velez was one which epitomised just about everything that was done wrong in the summer transfer window of 2013.

After what seemed like weeks and weeks of negotiations between the club and the player's representatives, in which Peruzzi actually came to Sunderland to discuss terms of his contract and undergo a medical, the club hummed and harred over a pre-existing knee injury which they felt could potentially hamper the deal. Alas, the move was off with Paolo Di Canio publicly calling the player's fitness into question. This was clearly not an issue for other clubs though and within a few weeks Gino appeared at Serie A side Catania, who paid a reported €3.5 million to secure his services.

His season at Catania started relatively slowly, and the player did not make his debut until AC Milan visited the Stadio Angelo Massimino at the beginning of December, after months of rehabilitation on the ligament injury which ultimately prevented his move to Wearside occurring.

Despite spending the start of the season recovering, Peruzzi has proven his fitness by becoming a regular in the Catania side and has done enough to impress clubs from these shores, with West Ham United the latest club to have been credited with interest in the player.

We may yet have another #PeruzziWatch movement on our hands. Watch this space.

Alfred Duncan

Duncan, along with Peruzzi, was another player that looked almost certainly ‘nailed on' to sign for the lads, with the player even publicly accrediting our interest in him by admitting he was "flattered" that we were interested in securing his services.

The stumbling block, it seemed, was with our valuation of the player. Inter were not prepared to sell a future star for a paltry amount and with Sunderland attempting to cut corners and build a large squad for as cheaply as we could, Duncan was not the first target we ultimately failed to secure due to the fact we weren't prepared to stump up the cash.

The Ghanaian youngster eventually ended up making a loan move to Serie A strugglers Livorno, whose season ended with a bottom place finish and relegation to the second tier. Last month Livorno president/Life Patron Aldo Spinelli went as far to say that Alfred Duncan "is the most disappointing (signing) of all", suggesting that this one was probably a bullet dodged.

Benjamin Mendy

When Sunderland fans were pictured posing for snaps with towering French attacking full back Benjamin Mendy outside of the Stadium of Light it left all of us feeling fairly optimistic that we'd secured a much sought after young talent from under the noses of the likes of Arsenal and Cardiff City. The club had agreed a fee with Le Havre and the player was reportedly happy with the contract offer made to him, making the completion of the deal a mere formality.

Wrong.

When Mendy learned of interest from French giants Marseille his attention immediately switched to a move there and a deal was quickly agreed for the player to sign for Les Phocéens. With Mendy ultimately being our top target we were left scrambling to bring in a backup option and after a hat full of failed potential recruitments we were lumbered with an injured and unfit Andrea Dossena. The less said about that the better.

Thus far Mendy has had to share left back duties with seasoned regular Jeremy Morel at Marseille but did make two starts in the Champions League last term and also bagged one goal and four assists in the league. Mendy, only 19 years old, is still viewed by the club and the L'OM fans as one for the future and, after a dismal season for the club which resulted in them finishing sixth and missing out on European football for the first time in ten years, it's expected that the club will perform a huge clear out this summer which will see Mendy become their first choice left back as of next season.

It's a deal that I look back on with regret, admittedly. We're now one year further forward and still do not have a left back on our books, which is slightly worrying. Despite the relative success that Marcos Alonso had after his loan from Fiorentina in the winter he's not certain to re-join the club and you'd think it's about time that we stopped clarting around and stumped up the cash required to bring a left back in that actually belongs to us.

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