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SAFC NewsWipe: Kone First To Leave & The 'Defoe Clauses' Exciting West Ham - Are There More?

In today's NewsWipe: Lamine Kone has departed for Abu Dhabi as Ivory Coast assemble for a training camp ahead of the African Cup of Nations despite his injury. And, pondering the claims that West Ham-aligned media outlets have made about certain clauses in certain players' contracts at Sunderland.

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Lamine Kone Leaves Sunderland

Sunderland centre-back Lamine Kone has already departed for an Abu-Dhabi training camp with the Ivory Coast squad in preparation for the African Cup of Nations.

Kone was withdrawn before the half hour mark against Burnley on Saturday after appearing to collide with an advertising hoarding and twinging his hamstring. He was subsequently unavailable for selection against Liverpool.

After dusting himself down, and having a couple of days to prepare, a ten hour flight awaits before the 27-year-old will join most of his Ivorian peers in the winter sunshine of the United Arab Emirates for a spot of pre-tournament bonding and warming-up.

After yesterday's game, Sunderland boss David Moyes expressed some surprise that Ivory Coast had insisted on summoning his defender so soon after a full Premier League fixture list to be played. He may be even more perplexed when he notices that the two Ivorian Wilfrieds - Bony and Zaha are expected to turn out for their Premier League clubs tonight and leave later in the week.

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League - Turf Moor Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Moyes has been pretty vague on the extent of Kone's injury, only saying the defender had "got a blow" and that:

It looked as if he went into the hoardings - I thought he was going to be okay but I couldn't really see from the dugout.

It looked not so bad to me at the time but I've no idea.

NewsWipe predicted a month ago that New Year's Eve could be the last time we would see Lamine Kone in a Sunderland shirt - certainly until February, or a suitable bid arrives to tempt David Moyes into a sale. And we were correct. Was this the Ivorian's farewell as he mingled in the fanzone before yesterday's game at the Stadium of Light?

These 'Alternative' Relegation Clauses

Observers have been aware that Sunderland have been proactive in insisting on certain clauses being inserted into the contracts of players for a number of years, which would be triggered should the club be relegated.

Until now it was widely accepted that these would mean footballer's salaries would be reduced by as much as 40% should the club finally succumb to the drop.

After all, when you've looked odds-on to go down for at least half a decade, it makes sense to attempt to minimise your exposure to financial risk - especially when the wages of playing staff make up something like three-quarters of your turnover - pretty much the highest ratio in the Premier League.

Indeed this became a 'policy' at Sunderland back in the days when Niall Quinn was chairman. The pain of relegation in 2003 has been a bitter memory that the club have attempted to mitigate against since something like 70 staff were made redundant that season. That was the year that Howard Wilkinson oversaw a drop that he didn't stick around to see the end of - Mick McCarthy of course leading the final stage of the journey into the abyss with 19 points.

But, the recent furore from West Ham - which reached a climax between Christmas and New Year - over the mouthwatering prospect that they might sign Jermain Defoe - has raised a couple of interesting points.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

On the subject of relegation clauses, it appears to have been Hammers blog site, Claret and Blue, who first claimed Defoe's contract extension - signed in the summer just gone - has in it a provision which means that the 34-year-old, who was yesterday's two-goal hero, can leave the Stadium of Light for free should Sunderland be relegated.

Within 24-hours, The Sun had claimed the story as their own and if in fact it had originated on the West Ham blog site, the daily newspaper offered no credit to Claret and Blue - an irritation which isn't unusual in the grind of producing original content on a fan site, as Roker Report can testify.

But, within days of the Defoe contract clause coming to light, some other websites - in the business of peddling content about our loaned out winger, Jeremain Lens - suggested that the Dutchman has a similar item inserted into his original Sunderland deal.

The claim originated in the Turkish media, but you can read an English write-up of it here. The piece was originally run by daily sports newspaper Fanatik and says that Lens can leave Sunderland for a vastly reduced fee should the club be relegated from the Premier League.

The 29-year-old winger has been superb for Fenerbahçe this season and supporters have been raving about his performances - even more so since he scored and provided an assist in the recent 3-0 derby win over Trabzonspor. But they are terrified of losing him since he began making headlines and attracting the attention of some of Europe's elite clubs.

Feyenoord v Fenerbahce - UEFA Europa League
Jeremain Lens in action for Fenerbahçe, December 2016
Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sunderland are obviously keen to flog Jeremain Lens for a profit, or at least to break-even on the original fee of £8m paid by Dick Advocaat in 2015. Relegation may put paid to that however if these claims are true.

Though the logic behind such clauses may be admirable - with hefty debts as it is, Sunderland will be keen as a business to shift on its highest earners as quickly as possible. That is if the threat of the drop eventually - inevitably - catches up with us. But such allowances do potentially leave the club exposed to a negligible return on some saleable assets.

NewsWipe is not aware of many similar examples having been published. Though as the threat of relegation nears once again, more may come to light. Long-gone goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon was thought to have such a release clause in his deal at the Stadium of Light. But, the apparent ease with which a West Ham blog and then The Sun newspaper were able to propose that such a thing exists in the case of Defoe suggests there is likely more of them in current player's contracts than we know about. Who could they be?

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