So often in football are fans of the game made to look naive over decisions they had their hearts set on mere months ago. The whole Lamine Kone fiasco over the summer is a prime example of that.
Following the appointment of David Moyes, and the subsequent loss of Younes Kaboul, questions were raised over the uncertainty of Kone’s future on Wearside. Having just lost the aforementioned Frenchman to Watford, the thought of parting with the Ivorian was unthinkable - as the two made up one of the best centre-back pairings we’ve ever had in the Permier League.
Indeed, the possibility of losing Kone quickly deteriorated from a stray, unsavoury thought into a seemingly imminent disaster.
A picture of Kone stood with an Everton fan did the rounds on social media - followed later by his withdrawal from the Middlesborough game with a dubiously diagnosed ‘bad back’ - did nothing to quell the fear of his possible exit. We were so desperate to keep him.
Fast forward three months, and we find ourselves in a position in which our financial situation is ambiguous at best and derelict at worst - with teams around us preparing to swoop for any talent we have readily available.
If teams were lining up for Lamine a few months ago, we’d be terrified. But now we should hope that, if anyone does have to go, it should be him. But why is that so?
The answer is that any big-money January departure that could occur at Sunderland would involve either Lamine Kone or Jordan Pickford. Both have attracted attention - and no doubt will invoke lucrative offers - from clubs who are willing to spend big to get what they want.
Kone still has the potentiality to attract attention from other clubs based on the reputation he developed in our survival push under Allardyce, whereas Pickford has earned a name for himself in the here-and-now; making countless top-drawer saves to earn us more points than we would’ve thought possible from such a youthful ‘keeper.
The reason why losing Kone over Pickford is the superior outcome should already be obvious: Kone’s success for us is firmly in the past, whereas Pickford is putting the graft in right now.
Whilst he hasn’t really lacked in quality at any point this season, it's apparent that Kone isn’t nearly the player he was last season. Outshone by Djilobodji and accumulating performances ranging from average to average-to-good, it’s clear that offloading Kone wouldn’t cripple us nearly as much as losing Pickford would.
Any money received from a selling in January is yet to have a clear-cut destination formally announced to the public, but intuitively we all know that hauling in double figures from one player (something easily achievable from shipping off Kone or Pickford) would benefit a dire financial situation, especially amid the uncertainty of our future ownership.
If someone needs to be reluctantly sold in order to boost our coffers, it might have to be Kone. It’s the exact opposite of what we would’ve said three months ago, but clearly time can move strangely in football.