Alex McCain - Yes, Definitely!
Hindsight is crucial here. At the time, the prospect selling our most formidable defender whose quality was matched only by his positive, motivational presence on social media bordered on insanity. We’d already parted ways with Younes Kaboul, one half of our fan-favourite, tragically short-lived centre back pairing - how could we even entertain the idea of parting with the other?
But now, if I could’ve stepped into the stumbling shoes of David Moyes that tripped over every financial obstacle August had to offer, I would’ve sold Kone in a heartbeat - knowing what I know now.
Lamine Kone embodies every negative attribute assigned to the typical modern-day footballer: he has quality, he has money, and he’s prepared to withhold the former until he gets more of the latter. What I’m basically trying to say is that Kone only performed to the full extent of his abilities because of sheer self-interest. Sunderland offered him a back-road into the Premier League, and he knew that - should he play well and help keep us up - a team with a bigger war chest would offer him something more than what we can provide.
We wouldn’t let him go to Everton, and his head dropped. He’s half the player he was last season because he has no desire to play for us. I mean, yeah, he’s evidently a quality defender that helps us to look good on paper, but what use is paper if he won’t pull his finger out? Would you keep a lawnmower that only cuts your grass when it feels like it?
Despite turning down the lucrative offers from the aforementioned Merseyside club back in the summer, it’s likely that Kone will have interest in signing him again in January. Even if we do learn from our mistakes and move the mercenary on, the likelihood is that he’s going to command a lower fee this time around.
The initial offer Everton proposed to us was £18m, which would’ve theoretically put us in a good financial situation for finding an immediate replacement. After reluctantly dragging his heels across the pitch at times this season - and in some cases even appearing to feign injury - he’s not only demonstrated that he’s not a consistent performer, but also that he has a bad attitude. He’s half the player he was under Allardyce, and I expect he’ll be worth half as much in the eyes of potential buyers.
He should’ve gone.
Callum Mackay: No - Risk Free Koné Can Still Be Key
Right, so we all kind of dislike Lamine Kone right now. That’s a settled argument. His effort has been nowhere near consistent enough this season, while his attitude has ruined an opportunity to be a Sunderland legend.
However, I think we were right not to sell him.
Firstly, we would have been left short of centre backs and it would have been difficult to sign a replacement in such a short space of time. We had a new manager, a recently overhauled scouting network and were likely not primed to move for a replacement, while most of the money we would have received for Koné may not have been available for reinvestment.
Secondly, say what you like about Koné’s inconsistency and lack of effort this season, he has produced several solid and composed displays, playing a big part in keeping us within touching distance in games against Manchester City, Southampton and West Ham. For the most part this season, it has not been Koné’s fault that we have failed to create in attack, failed to compete in midfield and gifted opposition goals at the back.
We must not forget that he is a very talented player and if we want to get out of a mess that already seems almost inescapable, we have to keep players like Koné and find a way to get the best from him. That is Moyes’ job, not to simply discard our best players at the first sign of an attitude problem. We all know footballers have egos and we all know they need to be told what they want to hear. Like it or lump it, that’s modern football.
Thirdly, keeping Koné is - I am convinced - a risk free move. We have tied Koné down to a five year contract. Also, a prominent feature of the Premier League transfer market is its inflated transfer fees and a respect for reputation over form. Koné will be worth just as much in January and next season as he was in the summer. Look no further than John Stones, David Luiz and our very own Papy Djilobodji for evidence of this trend. If you are on the books of a Premier League club, it doesn’t matter if you have a great season, an average season, or do nothing all season, your price tag increases. In addition, if you’ve proven you can do it in the Premier League before - however briefly or fleetingly - you can live off that for a long time.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s always a risk to put players on big money, as they may reduce their effort levels having achieved their primary goal of more money. However, that is not a good reason to jettison a key player at the first sign of an offer, particularly if we are not blessed with deputies or reinforcements. Fear of such things cannot and should not stop a club like Sunderland from having the ambition to retain their best assets.
In any case, Koné will likely be gone in January for at least the £18m that we rejected in the summer and we’ll have had more time to look for replacement. In the meantime, we have a very talented player in our squad and we need to find a way to sort his attitude out.