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Is Midfield Target Destined To Be Next Sunderland Transfer 'Saga'?

We seem to get one transfer 'saga' to follow every summer. Is midfielder set to be the subject of this years'?

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso


The dreaded Sunderland transfer 'saga' - there seems to be one every single summer and they always drive you crackers.

Some end well, such as Darren Bent finally getting his move from Tottenham and instantly banging in goal after goal leaving no one in any doubt that the waiting and the frustration was wholly worth it. Others, Steven Fletcher for example, divide the jury.

Then there are the majority, the ones who never actually arrive at all. Their names are almost more etched in Sunderland folklore at this point than the ones who did put pen to paper - Ariel Ortega, Jan Koller, Paul Scholes, Charles N'Zogbia, Gino Peruzzi... the nearly men.

In truth, these 'sagas' are not really unique to Sunderland. Ask any Manchester United fan or Arsenal fan and they'll probably relay similar tales of woe and irritation to you. Sure, the names are bigger and brighter but the overall effect is the same.

It's also not really a 'saga' at all. In fact it's all quite normal, especially for clubs in the top division where the pool of players capable of improving the side is smaller the closer to the top you venture. Clubs pick their top targets and struggle all summer to strike that balance between securing the inclination of those with the influence to make deal happen - the selling club, the player, the agents - without allowing yourself to be ripped off by any, or all, of them in the process.

And everyone in football is out to rip each other off, so let's not kid ourselves that value is an easy thing to find. It's not a case of if your getting ripped off for your top target, simply switch to another who won't try the same tricks. All your doing there is fighting the same battles but for a less coveted reward.

This summer, though admittedly in its blissful infancy, the 'saga' for Sunderland already appears to be focused upon Ever Banega.

The Argentinian ticks all the boxes: A player the manager is steadfast in rating; probably on the threshold for what is attainable for the club right now, quality wise, to the point of the spectre of bigger and more glamourous clubs looming on the horizon to hijack any deal; someone who has caught the imagination of the supporters. It's all there.

I personally can't tell you whether Sunderland are actively pursuing Banega this summer or not. I'd be very surprised if there wasn't some serious interest being displayed, though.

For a start, Poyet's admiration of the player is undeniable. That, I can tell you. It doesn't always lead to a signing, but it's very much real.

It is easy to see why, too. Banega could add serious pedigree and quality to a midfield light on invention and his natural game - and crucially football education - aligns perfectly with the Uruguayan's philosophy.

There is also an awful lot of chatter on this one materialising too. The summer is probably not the best time to place a great deal of faith in the quality of the British national press, to be perfectly honest. They tend to priotitise headlines and hits over honesty, and often seem to be fuelling each other's rumours creating a current which carries us even further from the actual facts. I mean, there is a reason why just about every footballer involved in a potential transfer is described as "a former [insert 'Liverpool', 'Manchester United', 'Chelsea', 'Arsenal' etc here] target". It allows digital media sub-editors to tag those huge clubs into the story and generate curiosity clicks from their fans.

However, that's not to say the press have no value and credibility at this time of year. It can be tougher to find, but specific suspicion within an industry does not need to breed blanket distrust. A good example would be the specific regional sports papers covering foreign clubs. They survive on their local readership and their own reputation, so accuracy is very high on their list of priorities.

The sports newspaper, Superdeporte, which covers both Valencia and neighbours Levante is a good example of it and is where the most recent stories linking Banega with Sunderland seem to have sprung from. In itself it isn't conclusive, but it adds considerable weight to the argument.

Indeed, we saw last summer, when the same newspaper first broke Sunderland's interest in Aly Cissokho, how they should be taken seriously. The left back ended up at Liverpool, but the interest from Wearside was genuine for a time.

Whether or not Banega is ensnared by Sunderland this summer remains to be seen. I may have misread everything and there might be no actual interest at all. It wouldn't be the first time. Right now all the signs point to there being plenty of interest in bringing the midfielder to the Stadium of Light, though.

So, if you're a masochist and are looking for the next painful Sunderland transfer saga, you might just be well advised right now to keep a close eye on the Banega situation as it develops this summer.

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