clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wahbi Khazri - a warning... the last midfielder we had excel at an international tournament was sold too

New, comments

Wahbi Khazri is making global headlines for his performances at the African Cup of Nations, but David Moyes has considered him not good enough for a starting spot in his side this season - is this a Sunderland 'thing' or a 'Moyes' thing? There is a parallel from Euro 2016 here too - do we just not give players a chance?

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Wahbi Khazri excelled in his hour-long display at the African Cup of Nations on Monday night. The Sunderland midfielder scored a penalty, had a goal disallowed and whacked a free kick a whisker over his opponent's cross-bar as he terrorised Zimbabwe and Tunisia romped into the next round of the competition.

Already a contender for player of the tournament, his success so far in the African flagship festival of football belies a curious situation back home. The Tunisian midfielder appears to have been deemed 'not good enough' for Sunderland; or perhaps more accurately, 'not good enough' for David Moyes.

Khazri has only featured in eleven of Sunderland's Premier League matches this season; he's sat as an unused substitute in nine more, and even when he has come off the bench, it's always been for just a few minutes with little chance to influence any games.

Indeed most Sunderland observers have been resigned to losing the 25-year-old in the January window. Admittedly the lack of transfer links has been curious; but surely the watching football world has now sat up and taken notice of the lad leading Tunisia in a charge at the African Cup of Nations. Suitors may now arrive banging on the door at the Stadium of Light before the transfer window shuts.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League
Wahbi Khazri scored a superb goal against Manchester United a little under a year ago.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

But, is it Wahbi Khazri or David Moyes that's the problem here; or is this a Sunderland-thing, or is it just one of those things?

There's even a recent precedent for this curious state of not good enough for Sunderland but good enough at a major international tournament, one which we can't blame Moyes for, but which hints at a curious issue at the Stadium of Light.

Italian midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini had been handed back into the custody of the country of his birth prior to Euro 2016 - deemed not up to the rigours of the Premier League or the battle required for the perpetually struggling Sunderland side in which he disappeared. He managed just 32 appearances in his few years on Wearside.

Darlington v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Giaccherini scoring in a pre-season friendly against Darlington in 2015
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

But once unshackled from a red-and-white shirt, and having spent a year out on loan at Bologna, Giaccherini burst onto the Euro 2016 stage and was one of the players of the tournament. The midfielder enjoyed his spell in the global spotlight and milked it, scoring three goals for Italy and he was subsequently hawked around Europe by his agent looking for a last decent pay-day for his 5ft 6in diminutive charge.

Germany v Italy - Quarter Final: UEFA Euro 2016
Giaccherini playing against Germany in the Euro2016 quarter-final
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Of course there are many other reasons for Giaccherini's success at Euro 2016 in stark contrast to his spell at Sunderland - the main being his reunion with Antonio Conte who had managed him at Juventus where both men enjoyed great success.

And here the parallels with Khazri probably end. Giaccherini was heading towards the Autumn of his career and now aged 31 he hasn't done a single thing since his headline-busting appearances at the Euros.

In fact, since he was picked up by Napoli in the aftermath of the tournament, he's only managed a few appearances for the Serie A side, and he may well be on the move again in the January window to somewhere which suits him better - Lazio are one of the clubs said to be interested in giving him a go.

But, is Emmanuele Giaccherini's tale a warning for Khazri-watchers, and what does it tell us? Does it tell us that Khazri's burst into life on a world stage away from Sunderland hints that some players, of certain ilks, simply don't stand a chance here; or does it suggest that a decent tournament free from the shackles of Premier League struggles is merely a flash-in-the-pan that will fade the minute the tournament is over?