Ndong Restored to Gabon for CAN2017
The Gabonese Football Federation announced their final 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations this morning and Didier Ibrahim Ndong is on the list.
There had been an outside chance that Sunderland's record-signing would not make the squad having been sent home in disgrace for missing a pre-arranged training session in November.
The host nation had caused a growing consternation amongst its supporters with a wall of silence around their pre-tournament plans - with no provisional squad and no warm-up matches known until today. So this morning's announcement has sorted that matter out, though it leaves a gaping hole to come in Sunderland's midfield for the best part of a month from early January.
The Gabon side will start their preparations a week today with a friendly match, but it remains unclear at which point David Moyes will agree to release Ndong with Sunderland at home to Liverpool on the 2nd January and then facing an FA Cup tie with Burnley five days later. The African tournament commences on the 14th.
Moyes has already bemoaned the impact ACON2017 will have on his limited options in a threadbare squad ravaged by injuries and reputedly without a penny to spend on new faces in January. The Sunderland boss expressed his frustration ahead of yesterday's trip to Manchester United that few nations had been in contact with the club to confirm and arrange the release of players for the tournament and its build-up.
Central midfield is a desperately short area as it is for a Sunderland side missing Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole to long-term lay-offs. That said, Ndong has had an inconsistent start to life in a Sunderland shirt; and if the 22-year old has looked more assured in recent weeks, he was lack-lustre at Old Trafford yesterday.
Yet again the Sunderland midfielder's decision-making was called into question as his mistake led to Manchester United's second goal, and if he gave the appearance of working hard at Old Trafford, Ndong had the air of a player who knows he is off to a major tournament in a matter of days.
These Mannone Rumours Have Familiar Air About Them (Pt 2)
A couple of weeks ago we speculated that transfer gossip linking Vito Mannone with a move away from the Stadium of Light looked a little 'convenient'. The Italian goalkeeper was linked with Aston Villa by his some-time apparent peer, Sky Italia reporter Gianluca Di Marzio.
The reports suggested the goalkeeper - who lost his place as Sunderland's number one because of injury and the exceptional form of Jordan Pickford - was unhappy with his ‘treatment' by David Moyes and quoted an agent who may, or may not be, former Director of Football, Roberto De Fanti.
Certainly it was De Fanti who represented Mannone during the summer when he signed his new deal
In the last few days, fresh links have emerged suggesting the 28-year-old is also wanted by Italian club Palermo. The Serie A side are said to be in the market for a new 'keeper and have pondered the prospect of repatriating Mannone to the country he left eleven years ago.
But what hasn't been widely mentioned, is the source reports of this link are contained in Italian sports publication, Il Corriere Dello Sport. The article makes claims which suggest that the Sicilian-based outfit are planning a double swoop for Mannone and his former Sunderland teammate, Modibo Diakite.
Diakite is now a free agent having been released by Sampdoria and looking for a new club. The defender made seven appearances during his dismal spell on Wearside and recently changed his agent. No prizes for guessing who represents the player now - yep, Roberto De Fanti.
After all, there are no coincidences in gossip-land during transfer windows. But what chance the former Sunderland Director of Football has been busy plotting the next round of tittle-tattle for two of his clients during the Christmas break - pretty high surely.