A little over a month since he signed a new deal at Sunderland and was strongly advised by his manager, David Moyes, to let his football do the talking, Ivorian defender Lamine Kone has given an interview with a French website in which he describes his admiration for summer suitor Everton.
His interview with Foot Mercato, which literally translates as ‘football market’, could not be more aptly done for a player who manipulated his way through the summer transfer window in a quest for a few quid more.
In a sorry summer saga he initially declared that departed manager Sam Allardyce had promised him a new contract, then requested a transfer when it wasn’t immediately hand delivered to him. He then travelled to Merseyside on a day's break from training and appeared in a photograph with an Everton fan only for his €20m transfer to Goodison Park to be blocked. A few weeks after the transfer window shut, Kone signed a contract extension with Sunderland which has made him one of the highest earners at the club.
At the time, the message from Sunderland boss David Moyes was clear – that Kone should concentrate on his football and prove the value of his new bumper deal:
“The challenge for Lamine now is to build on what has been a very positive introduction to English football and to continue to grow and improve as a player”
But it was more than that, for a rumoured £90,000 a week Moyes expected the player to show some leadership:
“He is a good player. He has gone to a level where he has to become a leader and a top player.
His contract suggests that and we need him to perform at a really high level now”
That hasn’t happened, and if the timing of the interview is a little odd, it is the tone which fans on Wearside may find stranger. Kone speaks at length of his disappointment at having not joined Everton, and is full of praise for the Merseyside club:
“It was a good opportunity for me to join this club Everton”
“Everton it’s not a small club…it was a very good opportunity for me. A golden opportunity. They are playing for the top positions. They could be in Europe. So it was an interesting challenge for me. At the time I was disappointed.”
And, perhaps that is understandable; but this is no rallying cry, no apology to supporters for his unseemly behaviour in the summer. This is no call to arms, no message to the fans that he will do all he can for the Sunderland-cause. There is no leadership here.
No, this is all about Lamine Kone.
Admittedly he does seem to suggest he is happy to be still at the Stadium of Light:
“Maybe it was not my time. Things were put straight, I signed a new deal for an additional year here. In any case I felt good at Sunderland. In the end everything arranged itself.”
Genuinely Kone appears to have no clue as to how he is now perceived by supporters, saying:
“I have a good relationship with the fans. The first four months I did have the fans behind me. They still are.”
This may have been intended as an interview to apologise to Moussa Doumbia of Mali who suffered a seizure following an elbowed clumsy challenge in a clash with Kone during the week, which Kone does; but the fact remains that the player has proven nothing yet following David Moyes words a month ago.
Because Kone has been largely poor this season. Last time out against West Brom he looked disengaged for large parts of the match; against Crystal Palace he allowed himself to be bullied by Christian Benteke; and in previous games he has only shown glimmers of the form which landed him so much interest in the summer.
None of us are daft – we get how football works these days. But, if players, clubs, agents, representatives – whoever, expect the paying public to buy into a façade of supporting a team with a collaborative aim that we all share; surely a modicum of respect would be in order.
Sadly, this was a pretty rank effort at public relations, even sadder he probably doesn’t care.
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