The Nearly Men (Part 3): The Ones Who Got Away

Valerio Pennicino

Roker Report guest Gavin Henderson concludes his look at the summer 2013 class of Sunderland could have beens.

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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.

Josuha Guilavogui

When Josuha Guilavogui admitted that we were interested in bringing him to these shores last summer, Sunderland fans everywhere sweated profusely whilst contemplating of the prospect of having to say his name out loud or, even worse, spell it.

The young French powerhouse, all six feet and two inches of him, is very highly rated in his home land and has amassed caps for his country at almost every level - he's not typically the calibre of footballer you'd associate with our club in terms of what we usually bring in each summer. Though, having said that, our interest in the player was very real and De Fanti was keen on bringing him to the club at a time when Lee Cattermole had been marginalised by the Di Canio and the purchase of a quality defensive midfielder was seen as a priority.

On the back of a stellar season for St Etienne - in which he earned himself a place the Ligue 1 team of the season - Guilavogui was expected to move on once a bigger club came calling and with him also being linked with sides like Galatasaray and Arsenal it seemed as though we were going to have to pull out all of the stops in order to secure the signature of this young man.

Like with most of our failed dealings in last summer's transfer window we were not prepared to match his club's valuation of the player - our highest bid reportedly around the €7m mark - and he eventually ended up at Atletico Madrid, who paid around ten million euros to secure his services.

In the time that has amassed since Los Rojiblancos purchased him his progress as a top class footballer has totally stalled, with injuries and lack of playing time attributing to the fact he has not made the France squad for the World Cup.

Not only has he struggled to break into a midfield which went on to lead their side to the La Liga title and a Champions League final, but Guilavogui did not impress Diego Simeone at all with his efforts in trainingor in games and as a result he was subsequently loaned back to St Etienne for the remainder of the season. After just a handful of Ligue 1 appearances following his switch back home he was felled by a pretty serious hamstring injury and spent the rest of the term on the sidelines injured.

Spanish newspaper Marca listed Josuha as one of ‘eleven disappointments of the 2013-2014 season' in an article a fortnight ago and it has been rumoured that he's set for a quick departure from the Spanish champions after a disastrous personal campaign.

When you consider that Guilavogui, Alfred Duncan and Cabral were our reported targets to fulfil that defensive midfield role it's striking that all of them have had a horrific season.

Despite his lack of playing time it's fairly obvious that Guilavogui is a good player and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he moves away from Spain to either England or France in a search for first team football this summer, having been linked with a move to both Arsenal and big spending Monaco. I get the feeling that even though our interest in the player was serious, it was never likely that he was going to rock up on Wearside.

Milos Krasic

There was a time when Milos Krasic was viewed as one of the top talents in Europe, having won just about everything with Russian side CSKA Moscow in a six year spell which included a vast array of league and cup wins, including clinching the UEFA Cup in 2005.

His promising early career led to Juventus paying a small fortune to bring him to the old lady and after becoming a regular in his first season at the club he struggled to hold down a place in the team throughout his second and this led to Turkish powerhouses Fenerbahçe moving to bring him in to lead their title charge in the 2012/2013 season. But, much like his time in Turin, Krasic failed to hold his place in the side and towards the end of the season there was constant speculation linking him to moves all over Europe but in particular with a move to Wearside.

Krasic, clearly desperate to do some shopping at the Bridges, even went as far as to claim that Sunderland were interested in securing his services, with his agent confirming that the player would consider a move to a Premier League club.

Alas, it wasn't to be as the transfer window came to a close and a move for the Serbian international never materialised. Whether we were actually interested in the pacey winger or not is one thing - in fact we were not - it's fair to comment that agents, and sometimes players, make stories up in order to create a flurry of interest for their services from other clubs.

On the last day of the window Krasic signed for ambitious Corsican side Bastia and went on to play in the majority of their league and cup fixtures throughout the season, alongside the likes of former SAFC cult hero Djibril Cisse, impressing as Les Bleus managed a solid tenth place finish in Ligue 1.

Decent enough season for a player who wasn't actually wanted on Wearside.

John Souttar

John Souttar may not be a name that particularly resonates with the majority of Sunderland fans but our interest in the player was very real this time last summer and throughout the rest of 2013, with the club keen to add the Dundee United player to our ever growing development squad.

Souttar, a Scottish U19s international centre half, made his debut for The Terrors aged sixteen in 2013 and has established himself as a first team regular at the SPL club despite being so young, indicating that he's most definitely good enough to start games in what is a competitive and physical league.

Our interest in the youngster began towards the end of the 2012/2013 season and it wasn't long before the club started trying to tempt the cash strapped Scottish Premier League side with big money for the defender, with a bid of £600,000 being accepted by his club sometime in October.

But, unlike many players his age, Souttar seems to possess a mind of his own and took the very mature decision to stick around at Tannadice and learn his trade as a first team player rather than as a member of our U21s side - a choice I'd argue is very wise from such a young man, knowing the obvious perks that come with playing for a Premier League club.

There have been rumours that we're still tracking his progress and are planning to move again this summer - I guess we'll have to watch this space and see whether or not anything comes of it.

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