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Loan Stars That Got Away

Sunderland over the years have been a club renowned for their astute business in the loan market, offering first-team football to players who perhaps have unjustifiably not been given an opportunity at their parent clubs. Many of those players tend to start making a name for themselves, and even go on to have superb careers elsewhere.

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For some players, teams like Sunderland are a place to regenerate their playing career and to rebuild their reputation. It is always a shame to see the players make a name for themselves at the Stadium of Light, only for them to never return in a red and white shirt.

This summer could potentially see a change in the usual pattern of loan players departing, with DeAndre Yedlin and Yann M’Vila potentially making a return to Sunderland this summer, with both on Sam Allardyce’s radar, although in both cases you would imagine that the club will not be held to ransom by the club or the player.

Transfer fees and wages have been a major sticking point for Sunderland in the past when trying to acquire the services of loan players, with the majority of those who have impressed, not returning to the Stadium of Light.

Jonny Evans was perhaps the first loan player who truly made his mark at Sunderland during two loan spells for the club in 2007 and 2008. Having made thirty-three appearances for the Black Cats over the two spells, Evans didn't see a permanent solution, instead, he wanted to push for a place in Manchester United's starting eleven, a wise choice as he returned to his parent club and achieved success in the form of trophies.

Evans is declared the second most decorated player in Northern Irish football history, with nine major trophies, but he now finds himself with West Bromwich Albion. It is hard to predict what could have happened with Evans had he chose to stay on Wearside. The defender was a Roy Keane signing, and since Keane’s departure, Sunderland have had seven permanent managers. Despite Evans’ undoubted quality, the Northern Irishman would have done very well to have survived seven managerial reigns without being sold.

The next loan signing that would end up establishing himself on Wearside would be French international Djibril Cissé. The failed permanent signing of the former Liverpool man was more of a case of being Sunderland's fault rather than the players desire to stay. Cissé, on loan from Marseille, scored ten goals in thirty-five appearances, making himself a cult-hero by even contributing a goal in both Tyne and Wear derbies that season.

The charismatic front man even publicly displayed his intention for a more permanent deal with us. However, a deal was not struck between Sunderland and Marseille, and Cissé moved onto Greek side Panathinaikos in which he showed that his best years were still ahead of him, clinching fifty goals in sixty-three games for the Greek club.

Cissé’s future was in limbo at the end of his loan spell. The man who signed him, Roy Keane, had departed, interim manager Ricky Sbragia had also left, and Sunderland were going through somewhat of a transitional period. Steve Bruce was appointed manager during that summer, but by that time, Cissé had already decided to move to Greece. Cissé is now declared retired at the age of 34 due to injuries, and is currently a DJ and fashion designer.

Perhaps the biggest name that Sunderland have managed to purchase on loan in recent years is Danny Welbeck. The English striker arrived on a season-long loan from Manchester United having failed to break into the first-team under Sir Alex Ferguson. Welbeck himself has claimed Sunderland are the team that turned him from a boy to man. As opportunities were far and in between at Manchester United, a young Danny Welbeck moved on loan to Wearside in hope of some game time back in 2010. Game time is what he got and the rewards were unlimited, the striker scored six goals in twenty-six games, gained an England call-up in 2011 and went back to Manchester United with some merit backing his already undoubted potential.

Welbeck never had plans to return to Sunderland, his aspirations were bigger than that, and now admirably finds himself returning pushing on for a starting place for Arsenal and England.

During this spell, Sunderland had an attacking threesome of Welbeck, Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan. Fast forward three more years and Danny Graham and Steven Fletcher were leading the line for Sunderland. A lack of ambition and resources cost Sunderland, at the turn of the decade, the Black Cats were in the position to truly push on having finished tenth under Bruce in 2010, instead, Sunderland would endure years of poor transfer business and relegation nerves.

Sunderland’s main problem position has been the left-back slot, with several players arriving on loan, only to impress and then depart. Sound familiar?

Danny Rose was perhaps the biggest success story to have came from a Sunderland loan. Arriving in 2012, Sunderland was the fourth loan spell of Danny Rose's Spurs career and it was the most influential of all. Danny Rose played twenty-seven games in red and white scoring only one goal. The left-back proved an instant success, but the European football guaranteed by Tottenham Hotspur cemented Rose's future with London club.

Rose is now a regular in the Spurs side and has also broke into the England set-up. The 25-year-old still keeps close contact with Sunderland and was at the Stadium of Light to see the Black Cats secure their league status at the end of last season. You could argue that Rose did too well at Sunderland, and if he had saved his best form for after Sunderland made a permanent bid then the Black Cats could’ve had Rose on their books for many years.

Rose’s departure left a void that Sunderland failed to fill for six months until Gus Poyet bagged Spaniard Marcos Alonso in January 2014. The former Real Madrid and Bolton defender quickly became a key part of the side, making 20 appearances, he became loved on Wearside, Marcos Alonso was the left back Sunderland fans had been waiting for since Rose left. Unfortunately, Sunderland could not find an agreement with Fiorentina for the permanent purchase of Alonso who was keen to make the move permanent. The Spanish-born defender now finds himself a vital part of their starting lineup thanks to a successful loan spell on Wearside.

A lack of stability at the club, poor investment and player ambition has played a part in Sunderland failing to secure the permanent services of their loan stars. However, you can’t help but feel that if the Black Cats could’ve secured the signings of these players, just how different could Sunderland’s recent fortunes have been?