Koné a Goner, When Will He Go And Will He Come Back?
Côte d’Ivoire coach, Michel Dussuyer, has named his 24-man provisional squad for the Africa Cup of Nations and there's no surprise that Sunderland defender, Lamine Koné has been named.
The French former goalkeeper, who has managed Ivory Coast since 2015, will assemble his squad for a ten-day training camp on the 2nd January. As NewsWipe said a few weeks ago, the dates of the gathering caused consternation amongst Premier League clubs when they were originally announced due to the full domestic fixture programme taking place on Tuesday.
No resolution has ever been announced for that matter, so whether Koné will feature for Sunderland against Liverpool remains unclear. A sensible solution would be for English-based players to fly to Abu-Dhabi - where the warm-up programme is being held - a day late. But, when did sense prevail in football?
Additionally, New Years Eve may yet even be the final time we see Lamine Koné in a Sunderland shirt if he does jet off straight after for international duty. That is if his long list of supposed suitors manage to conjure up a bid suitable to twist David Moyes' arm in the January transfer window.
For many supporters, the first half of the season has had an air of inevitability about it after the Ivorian centre half signed his new deal at the Stadium of Light - which made him one of the highest earners at the club - and proceeded to perform as if he still couldn't wait to be away.
Keep it under your hat, but the likes of Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace seemingly haven't clicked on yet that they may be about to shell out £15m for a bottom-three performing defender who has been as much a cause of Sunderland's problems this season as anyone else in a red-and-white shirt. Koné's lack of effort aside, his positioning and awareness have looked increasingly suspect against Premier League opposition since August.
But, the time for recriminations must wait until we learn the fate of the man who was, admittedly, exceptional at the heart of Sunderland's defence for three months last season. With the absurd Willie McKay and his son presumably still acting on Koné's behalf, we might expect a twist or two yet in the protracted saga.
Forget Koné - The Senegal News Looks Ominous For Djilobodji's January
For weeks NewsWipe has been adamant that Papy Djilobodji has as much chance of going to the Africa Cup of Nations as Wilfried Zaha, but news from Senegal in the last few hours has a slightly ominous edge to it. Are the fates lining up for the Sunderland central defender to receive a shock call and, as a result, decimate David Moyes' central defence for a month? Possibly.
Because, according to reports emanating from the African country, coach Aliou Cisse, is set to name an enlarged thirty-man provisional squad due to all sorts of issues over selection and injuries to key players. Some stars eligible for a call have rejected the advances of the man who has been at the helm of Senegalese international football on-and-off for the last four years, and there have been long-standing rumours of rifts and a group of players singled out for exclusion from the international set-up - one of them being Papy Djilobodji.
You may recall Aliou Cisse from his brief Premier League exploits. After an impressive 2002 World Cup in which Senegal beat holders, France, Cisse was picked up by a certain Steve Bruce while the Geordie was manager at Birmingham City.
A defensive midfielder, Cisse promptly got himself sent off on his debut at Arsenal and had picked up an astonishing ten yellow cards by the turn of the year. In truth he turned in some decent performances under Bruce but the pair promptly fell out and Cisse went to Portsmouth. And it was that transfer which was investigated as part of the Stevens Inquiry into football corruption in 2007. The agent in that deal? One Willie McKay.
Now 40, the Senegal head coach has contended with the loss of West Ham striker, Diara Sahko through injury and doubts over the availability and willingness of defender, Cheikh M'Bengue, and Newcastle midfielder, Henri Saivet, who is on loan at Saint-Etienne to be called for the tournament. The two men are among those players apparently previously excluded during Cisse's tenure - for whatever reason - but neither have expressed any great desire to return to the fold.
More significant is the decision within the last 24-hours of Werder Bremen's central defender, Lamine Sane, to publicly refuse a call-up. The centre-half has stated he would prefer to concentrate on his club career as he continues to recover from an injury.
A veteran of 35 caps, Sane was a key part of Senegal's qualification campaign for ACON2017 and has featured in recent World Cup qualifying matches. His absence leaves a gaping void at the heart of Cisse's defence.
Would Sane's withdrawal have changed Cisse's mind over calling up Papy Djilobodji? Does his decision to name a 30-man squad, with the tournament beginning two weeks on Saturday and other nations putting the finishing touches to 23-men teams, indicate a willingness to reintroduce some previously excluded personnel - including M'Bengue, Saivet and, gulp, Djilobodji?
We should find out by this time tomorrow.