The issuing of a club statement to address a player not signing because he doesn't fancy it anymore is an unusual step, but necessary given the palava in the summer over Yann M'Vila.
The Frenchman who was at the centre of the most protracted and ludicrous transfer saga in the club's history, eclipsing even Gus Poyet’s year-long pursuit of Fabio Borini, will not be joining Sunderland because, despite the fact he wanted to in the summer, he doesn’t now.
Sunderland AFC have issued a statement aimed at saving a little face by saying M'Vila changed his mind; and no doubt the phone call described in the announcement included some agreement that this would be the line that club and player would take. Because, Yann M’Vila updated his social media status last night to confirm he had informed Sunderland's CEO that he didn’t fancy come back after all.
In truth, if he was keen on a return in the summer, the writing was on the wall from the moment he supposedly flew back to Russia from London on transfer deadline day, having been sat waiting for the Sunderland call that never came.
Here’s five rather good reasons to conclude he was never coming anyway.
1. Did Moyes Really Want Him?
We know it was David Moyes who was backed into a corner at the height of the post-summer window fallout to hail the mysterious ‘pre-contract agreement’, the form of which was never explained. Moyes sought to assure fans that there was every chance Yann M’Vila would simply bide his time and join us in January.
But, privately we’ve been led to understand the Sunderland boss was never set on the Frenchman anyway. Moyes was not in a position to ‘move on’ from Yann M’Vila because he simply wasn’t here when the player was. He signed Didier Ndong in the summer and has Jan Kirchhoff back to fitness as well as Jason Denayer looking promising in a midfield holding role.
The fact that Sunderland will need to sign a new central midfielder in the upcoming window can not be overstated. But, Moyes will have realised he has options and one Frenchman does not a team make.
2. The 'Pre-Contract Agreement' Must Have Been Worthless
The Sunderland statement issued last night is cleverly worded but it does raise a question or two.
There was a three-and-a-half-year agreement in place, however after discussions with the manager we have decided not to enforce the contract
It remains unclear how this “agreement” could be “in place”. Footballers in Europe are permitted to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs in the last six months of their current deal. The arrangements for dealing with Russian clubs are far murkier and as no one knows the form of the “agreement”, it’s fair to assume it had little more binding effect than a handshake.
And, in modern day football, a 'gentleman's agreement' carries little weight.
3. He Can Get More Lucre In Russia
The offer on the table at Rubin Kazan will elevate the already substantially well-paid Yann M’Vila into one of their top earners. The Tartastan club reward their stars well, though they can’t quite match the phenomenal wealth of the top Russian clubs like Zenit St Petersberg. Regardless, M’Vila’s salary will no doubt match or exceed his best paid teammates like Alex Song, who easily earns above £5m a year.
Sunderland’s top-earner is Jermain Defoe followed by Lamine Kone who are hovering as paupers on a sub-100k wage. M’Vila is likely earning a quarter-of-a-million more in Russia than he would have done at Sunderland.
4. He Likes It In Russia Now
After a misspent pre-season, Yann M’Vila was patently unfit and unprepared for the campaign ahead when it originally kicked-off. But since then, the player has got himself fit and started turning in some excellent showings for Rubin Kazan. Russian football sites have been singing his praises for weeks and applying pressure on the Kazan hierarchy to offer him a new deal.
Also, his best mate, Chris Mavinga, is still there. Despite Mavinga toying with Sheffield Wednesday in the summer in much the same way his marra, M’Vila, flirted with Sunderland, both men remain with Kazan.
Indeed, the fates of Yann M’Vila and Chris Mavinga seem to be fatefully intertwined. They rose through the ranks of French football together, featuring at various levels of the international youth set-up and both appeared for Rennes between 2011 and 2013.
Both men were involved in that nightclub jolly in 2013, three days before a French international match, which led to them being suspended from national-team activity. Then cut to this summer, and both men went AWOL from Kazan in July; supposedly they returned to France to sort out some visa issues, thereafter neither of them were quick to return to Russia. And there they remain – brothers together as they always have been.
5. Look At His transfer window history
Yann has history with transfer windows, and playing clubs off against each other at will. He’s also a master of manipulation and doing what the heck he wants.
He's some boy - look at his CV:
- 2010: allegations of assault over a traffic incident and a court appearance over two prostitutes who made of with his belongings on the eve of an international match.
- 2012: allegation of assault against a 17-year old man believed to be his sister’s boyfriend.
- 2012: two year ban from the French Football Federation following a wild night out in between under-21 internationals.
- 2013: went AWOL from Kazan during the Russian winter break and sat amongst Liverpool fans during a Merseyside derby.
- 2014: furiously left the field of play having been substituted by Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini, and within a month his loan agreement had been terminated.
- 2015: during the period he spent with Dynamo Moscow he was accused of trashing his rented house and some lurid headlines emerged about him wielding an axe.
- 2016: posts on Instagram in July that he wishes to return to Sunderland. On transfer deadline day updates his status to say he is in London. Then when no deal is forthcoming a further message emerges proclaiming he is “heartbroken”.
- 2016: posts on Instagram in September that he will be in Sunderland “if God wants”, later followed by a “thanks” hint at goodbye in November.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Yann M’Vila is exactly the type of player Sunderland need in the middle of the park right now. But, there are reasons to be cheerful that the sorry saga is behind us and we can get on with the not-insubstantial business of sorting the squad out in January. He’s two more reasons to be cheerful:
1. So, Surely Sunderland Have £70k Of Wages To Play With?
If, as the reports this morning have suggested, £70,000 per week was roughly the agreed rate at which Yann M’Vila would be recompensed for turning out in red-and-white, then the figure being ‘freed up’ allows David Moyes some flexibility to use it creatively.
There have been warnings in recent weeks that the club are dangerously close to their Financial Fair Play wage limit. Well, they can’t be that close if they were banking on making M’Vila one of the highest paid players at the club – can they?
2. Was He Really That Good - Can We Do Better?
Has the summer saga and the social media meltdown since July replaced the cold hard facts about Yann M’Vila’s 2015/16 season?
The midfielder made an instant impact in Dick Advocaat’s early season calamity – but then he was the only ‘solid’ player on the park for much of the opening nine-game miserable run last term. But, towards Christmas time he began to labour and disappear from matches before a resurgence towards the end of the season when Sam Allardyce finally found a mechanism for wringing some form from his miserable squad.
Oh.... okay, who are we kidding.
In truth, the cold hard stats confirm what we all thought – he was brilliant.
Yann M’Vila was the ‘24th best midfielder’ in the Premier League last season when you judge him on his stats according to Fox Sports. Considering he was playing in the fourth worst side, that's some achievement. He made the sixth highest number of tackles in the division, and outstripped all of his Sunderland teammates in terms of passes made and successful interceptions.
Yeah, he was good. But that’s the end of it. Time to look forward.