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Sunderland's Most Expensive Team

The transfer window is set to officially open on Friday, with Sunderland looking to invest in a squad full of deadwood. With fans longing for Ellis Short to dig deep into his pocket, Chris Sparks looks at the Black Cats’ most expensive squad in the club’s history prior to last season.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Sunderland look likely to break their transfer record this summer, with astronomical fees being quoted across the market, partly attributed to Brexit and partly due to the large television deals that struck the English game this summer.

The Black Cats have already reportedly offered £14-million for Roma striker Edin Dzeko, whilst large sums are regularly quoted for players such as Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho.

However, with a big price tag, quality does not always follow. Below is a list of the most expensive eleven in Sunderland’s history, prior to last season, going position-by-position using a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

(GK) Craig Gordon

The Scot was Roy Keane’s record transfer during his time at the club. Gordon arrived with a big reputation north of the border, impressing for both club and country. The 33-year-old made just 88 appearances for us in five years, which judging by my calculator is £102,000 per game - hardly an ideal investment. Gordon showed glimpses of class, including a truly outstanding save against Bolton Wanderers, however, injuries played their part and we ended up losing Gordon for nothing as his career looked to be over. In typical Sunderland fashion, Gordon made a full recovery after his release, and has now established himself as Scotland and Celtic’s first choice.

(RB) Stephen Wright

Yes, you have read that correctly. Stephen Wright is our most expensive right-back in the club’s history at three million pounds.

Bought from his hometown club Liverpool by Peter Reid, Wright went on to make 92 appearances for the Black Cats and even bagged two goals. In what has become a Wearside tradition, Sunderland released Wright, recouping zero of their investment on the defender, who actually had somewhat of a cult fan base amongst the Stadium of Light faithful. Wright impressed in the Championship under Mick McCarthy, but sadly this was the pinnacle of his Sunderland career.

(CB) Anton Ferdinand

He may look like his older brother Rio, but Anton certainly didn’t play like him. Roy Keane signed him from West Ham United for eight million pounds, and branded the youngster as a ‘future England international’. Keane was incorrect. Ferdinand would make eighty-five appearances for Sunderland in three years, with the highlight being a ridiculous Michael Jackson inspired celebration for his disallowed goal against Tottenham Hotspur.

Surprisingly, we managed to recoup some of the transfer fee that we had invested, when QPR kindly took Ferdinand off our hands in 2011 for £4.5-million. Ferdinand is now without a club having left Reading at the end of last season.

(CB) John O’Shea

The formidable pairing of O’Shea and Ferdinand is finally a reality; Having played alongside Anton’s brother at Manchester United, O’Shea finally gets to play beside Anton too thanks to Roker Report.

O’Shea has been a loyal servant to us since arriving for five million pounds in 2011, serving as a leader both on and off the field. O’Shea may have his fair share of critics but in terms of value for money, I would say the Irish skipper is the first to provide that in this XI. With the 35-year-old entering the final months of his deal, we could well be seeing the last of O’Shea in red and white this season.

(LB) George McCartney

The Northern Irishman completes a UK backline. When McCartney re-joined Sunderland from West Ham in 2008 for £5.5-million, Black Cats fans, myself included, were delighted. I remembered the days of McCartney and Julio Arca dominating the left-hand side of the Sunderland side during the early 2000s. However, he fell out of favour under a number of different managers during a four-year spell, tarnishing the memories from his first spell at the club, departing on a free transfer after just forty-one games.

(RM) Adam Johnson

Despite the well publicised departure from the club earlier this year, Johnson was once a key figure in our side. The ten million pounds arrival from Manchester City came with a reputation for his flair and pace, however, what Sunderland received was an inconsistent player who liked the lifestyle more than the game itself, with 19 goals in 122 games a poor return for such a heavy investment. Johnson was slowly establishing himself as a derby day hero, with four goals against Newcastle during his time on Wearside, however, the manner of his departure will leave a sour taste amongst Sunderland fans for many years.

(CM) Jack Rodwell

Another ten million man purchased from Manchester City, Rodwell has been just as poor. Once described as the future of English football, Rodwell’s fall from grace has been nothing short of astonishing. A lack of confidence and work ethic has made the former Everton man an easy target for Sunderland fans. However, four goals in 45 games is a truly woeful record in red and white, with Rodwell looking like the latest in a string of names who the Black Cats will make a heavy loss from.

(CM) Emanuele Giaccherini

Serie A winner, Italian international and a mainstay in the Juventus side, Emanuele Giaccherini arrived at Sunderland with quite a reputation. This one still puzzles me. It’s hard to say where it has gone wrong on Wearside for the £6.5-million man, with the little Italian never really impressing on Wearside despite a decent record of four goals in 32 games, with the majority of these as a substitute. Despite, Giaccherini still being on the books, it looks as though he will return to Italy this summer for a cut-price of what we paid for him. Typical.

(LM) Stephane Sessegnon

Sess was a rare successful investment from Sunderland, with the Benin international arriving from PSG for £6-million in 2011 under Steve Bruce. 17 goals in 87 games for the Black Cats saw the alleged love child of Messi and Pele become a fan favourite on Wearside. After a falling out with Paolo Di Canio, Sessegnon left for West Brom for £6.5-million in 2013, scoring against Sunderland on his debut.

The 32-year-old is now without a club - a Wearside return, anyone?

(ST) Steven Fletcher

Yes, Sunderland paid £12-million for Steven Fletcher, and yes, we let him leave on a free transfer. The Scot is one of those players that I could not warm to, his attitude annoyed me. His lack of effort and passion after Martin O’Neil left the club was borderline criminal, with Fletcher scoring a pathetic 23 goals in just under 100 games on Wearside, with almost half of those goals coming in his first season.

Sunderland fans will be pleased to see the back of the former Hibernian man, who is now on the lookout for a new club, and he will get one, providing he drops his ludicrous wage demands.

(ST) Asamoah Gyan

Sunderland’s record transfer fee was paid in the summer of 2011 when Steve Bruce signed Asamoah Gyan for £13-million. The charismatic Ghanaian bagged eleven goals in 37 games for Sunderland during his short stint at the club. Sadly for Sunderland, Gyan chose financial benefits over his career aspirations.

Gyan left for Al-Ain for a fee totalling around £15-million, where he became one of the highest paid footballers on the planet. Now plying his trade in China for £227,000 per week, it is hard to argue against Gyan’s decision to leave Wearside, although you can’t help but think about how good he could’ve been in red and white stripes.


- (GK) Simon Mignolet - £2-million

- (DEF) Kieran Richardson - £5.5-million

- (DEF) Michael Turner- £4.5-million

- (MID) Craig Gardner - £6-million

- (MID) Lorik Cana - £5-million

- (ST) Connor Wickham - £8-million

- (ST) Darren Bent - £10-million

Squad total - £129-million

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