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Black Cats Analects: Valuating Younès Kaboul

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Sunderland wouldn’t sell Younès Kaboul, right? . . . right?

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Word has it that Watford have bid £3 million for our very own Younès Kaboul. Now there’s a deal we as supporters don’t need right now; not one concerning one of our first team players, and especially not this one.

After all, there are many, many, many reasons why Sunderland AFC should not want to sell Younès Kaboul this season.  For one; we’re talking about a centre-back whose surplus, injury-clad career was salvaged and rebuilt into the form of a team-leading defender within just one year here.

You need only look comparatively at his record last season against his previous five, from 2010/2011.  For Sunderland, Kaboul produced his third-best tackling success rate (80%), third-best tackles per game (2.3), second-best interceptions per game (2.3), second-best clearances per game (8.6) and second-best aerial dual wins per game (3.4).

Now, not only does that mean the Frenchman is variably preferable in form now than over the last five years, but also that he is performing at a superior rate than his squad counterparts.  Only one centre-back at Sunderland bettered Kaboul for any defensive action last season – Lamine Koné, for clearances.  And only just.

He doesn’t come off too bad against other clubs’ central defenders either.  Since joining the Black Cats; Kaboul has ranked tenth for interception rate (per 38 mins), sixth for completed tackling rate (per 48 mins), fourth for successful header rate (per 24 mins), third for clearances rate (per 10 mins), and first for his rate of blocking passes (per 121 mins).

All of that is not bad reading for a player who went as many minutes for us last season as he did in his prior three seasons at Tottenham Hotspur.  So, given his recent in-game accomplishments, why would Sunderland even entertain selling Younès Kaboul for a poxy three million quid?

Well, hopefully, you’d think we just wouldn’t.  For starters, the reported £3 million is insulting to the player himself and ignorant of the modern-day transfer market.  Keep in mind here; it cost an already-undervalued £3.66 million to bring the serially-injured and unwanted defender to Wearside, and that was a year ago.  To sell him now for less money would be cluster-f**king farcical.

It’s also hard to believe Sunderland would accept such a fee for a first team regular, even if there was a willingness to sell.  Arsenal bought Rob Holding from League One in this transfer window for a fee of £2.55 million.  Just think about that for a second.

To sell Younès Kaboul would also have adverse consequences on the current squad.  Papy Djilobodji arrived mere days ago to inject some long-awaited competition to central defence, and it would be eye-rolling to see the club thoughtlessly stop that so abruptly.  And as competent a defender as Djilobodji is, he is still the unknown risk to play over the vastly-proven Kaboul.

Furthermore, you’d also think that the club understands the necessity of replacing any outgoing ‘good’ player with an equally good or better successor.  Put this question to yourself: what defender is available who you know can achieve in the Premier League consistently and is available for £3 million? If this rumour is true, then Kaboul is the only player who ticks those boxes.  Otherwise, our alternatives are the €5 million cross-continental unknowns and the £8 million EPL cast-offs.

And if they don’t work out, we’ll all come back to the point: we do not need to sell Younès Kaboul and we should not want to sell Younès Kaboul.

There will come a day, yes, when that will happen and supporters will understand.  The defender will be thirty-one years old at the end of this season; the three years remaining on his contract probably won’t been seen through; and the 385-days/79 matches-worth of injuries over the last half-decade is a risk we derided him for the day he got here.

That said; it would be a thick-headed move to sell Kaboul in this transfer window.  That’s what makes it so hard to believe.  And – who knows – maybe this is and was never happening.  Maybe this is all agent and paper talk at the tail-end of the recent Lamine Koné contract dispute, and will end with an all-smiles Kaboul penning an improved deal here.

Then again, if it isn’t, then our club has a lot to explain for its stance on the financial and playing value of its assets.  There will come a time when Kaboul should leave Sunderland – but that’s not now.  No matter what circumstances exist, the club should do its upmost to keep the defender on Wearside for now, as no realistic amount of money for Kaboul could pay for a replacement capable of his proven reliability.

In this instance, the playing value of Younès Kaboul is worth more to Sunderland than his financial value.