After a protracted summer in which Sunderland supporters fully expected Yann M’Vila to return ‘any day now’; and a transfer deadline day in which Sunderland supporters fully expected Yann M’Vila to return ‘any minute now’; the news that he has returned to training with Rubin Kazan closes a sorry, if entertaining chapter.
There is quite a quaint little side-story here too. One of two ‘brothers’, whose journey in the crazy world of football has mirrored each other rather neatly. It is a tale that, most recently, culminated in a bizarre transfer deadline day and which has yet to conclude a final chapter.
The fates of Yann M’Vila and his mate Chris Mavinga seem to be fatefully intertwined. Both are currently signed to Rubin Kazan. 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 have flirted briefly with English football – Mavinga at Liverpool and M’Vila, of course, at Sunderland.
Both men were involved in a 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.
So, was it purely chance then, that on transfer deadline day, both Mavinga and M'Vila took to social media to tease their watching audience about where they might be heading next? Mavinga, for his part, tweeted a photograph from an aeroplane window with the word "Paris"; M’Vila of course updated a watching Wearside, via his Instagram account, to suggest that he had landed in London.
Coincidence? I’m not totally convinced there is such a thing in the manipulative, high stakes, big money world of football. In a summer that saw Lamine Kone appear on social media, posing for a photograph with an Everton fan in a Merseyside hotel, the savvy football fan takes little at face value these days.
In the end, nothing came of any of it of course. Mavinga, who was linked with moves to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Sheffield Wednesday and Panathinaikos during the window, returned to training with Rubin Kazan yesterday. Assigned a squad number, he will play with the number 64 on his shirt this season. Why he was in Paris, if indeed he actually was, has never been made clear.
Yann M’Vila, as we know all too well, did not surface at the Academy of Light finally holding a Sunderland scarf aloft. Supporters on Wearside who had followed the progress, or lack of it, on deadline day shared in his fleeting social media message suggesting he was "heartbroken" that no deal between Sunderland and Rubin Kazan had been reached.
Indeed M’Vila is reported to have passed a medical examination and returned to training in Russia today. However, whether he plays in the Russian Premier League this season is open to debate. Reportedly, Kazan have applied to register him to play for the first team, but it may actually be too late to do so. If that is the case, ‘our’ Yann will likely flit around their reserve set up for a few months.
So, here see for your own eyes the final proof that Yann M'Vila has returned to Rubin Kazan:
The worst of it? He looks happy to be there.
The fact that he wasn’t registered by his parent club to play in the Russian league certainly suggests that they fully expected him to leave during the transfer window. Various fees have been mooted for his transfer to Sunderland, from £5m to £8.5m. Sunderland presumably balked at paying even the lowest of those due to the fact the player is out of contract in a few months’ time.
It has been widely reported that Sunderland do have a pre-contract agreement to sign Yann M’Vila in January when his term expires with the Russian club. However, in this the most protracted of all Sunderland transfer sagas, it just feels unlikely that things will that easy.