Wahbi Khazri’s loan spell in France continues to explode. The Tunisian is the toast of Brittany again today after he played a big part in Stade Rennais beating Olympique Marseille to progress to the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue last night.
The Tunisian capped a first half assist with a goal of his own after the break to force the tie to penalties. Khazri then converted a successful spot-kick to help his side emerge victorious.
The Sunderland-owned playmaker has now scored six times in 15 appearances in French football this season and continues to attract headlines for his exploits.
Assuming he carries on in this vein, Khazri looks set to cap a successful domestic campaign with a summer on the biggest stage as Tunisia take part in the World Cup. Surely he’ll be worth a fair whack when Sunderland consider selling him next summer. Won’t he?
The tournament in Russia is a traditional showcase for the crop of global talent and with the North African nation featuring in the same group as England, Khazri will be afforded an opportunity to show the public in this country exactly what he can do.
After all, the midfielder signed by Sunderland in 2016 has made little secret of his desire to return to England’s top flight. A little over a week ago, in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe, Khazri told of his ambition to still make it to a top-six Premier League side.
But assuming he’s unlikely to be playing Championship or League One football on Wearside next season, are the Black Cats in a position to maximise whatever value they can from a sale of the 26-year-old in the summer?
This being Sunderland, it won’t be straightforward of course. Certainly the rapid restoration of Khazri’s reputation this season can do no harm to his value though.
When it was clear in the summer that Khazri had little desire to play second-tier football under Simon Grayson, the player’s stock had sunk somewhat after a campaign marred by accusations he was overweight and disinterested and the fact David Moyes was reluctant to give him a game. In monetary terms, the Black Cats had little chance of recouping much of the reported £9m they had paid for him eighteen months prior.
So perhaps there was some foresight in loaning him out this season after all. With Khazri’s stock continuing to grow following an explosive first half of the campaign at Stade Rennais, so too is his valuation. And it can only keep on rising with the season still to conclude and the World Cup coming.
But there is a limit of course. And the over-inflated transfer and wage market which characterises English football will dampen what Sunderland can rake in from a sale of Khazri next year.
Stade Rennais president Olivier Létang admitted as such last week when asked whether his club could afford to buy the Sunderland man outright, with no shortage of truth in his jovial reaction:
There is a loan without option to buy. Since he is under contract with an English club, I would say to you in the tone of the joke: he must stop scoring goals!
The more he goes to score, the more we will be in difficulty. But it’s really a joke.
Supposedly the French club are paying all of Khazri’s wages but a transfer fee of the size Sunderland will be hoping for may yet be out of the question.
Rennes spent big last summer with €15m notably lashed out on centre-forward Ismaïla Sarr, but much of the club’s recent business has been subsidised by money raised. An incoming €40m from the sale of Ousmane Dembélé to Borussia Dortmand in 2016 was then further inflated by a whopping sell on clause when the forward signed for Barcelona in an eye-watering €100 million-plus deal this summer.
Such clout in the transfer market is unusual in French football outside of mega-bucks Paris Saint Germain. And clubs from other countries which might fancy a bit of Wahbi Khazri are also equally as likely to find it a challenge to fork out a decent sum for him.
The big sides in Turkey tend to be increasingly hampered by Financial Fair Play restrictions - as evidenced by the buy-now-pay-later deal that Besiktas negotiated for Jeremain Lens. The Super Lig champions will not have to start paying for the Dutchman until next summer, and even then the payments are said to be spread over several years. The situation in Italy is little different, despite AC Milan’s big spending this year.
Khazri was linked with a move to Spain mid-way through Sunderland’s relegation season but LaLiga clubs are unlikely to be able to afford him - neither the transfer fee or his wages.
Truth be told, the Black Cats will do well to cover Khazri’s entry on the books come the summer. The Tunisian signed a three-and-a-half year deal when he signed in January 2016.
By next June there will be 12 months of that left. That £9m fee paid to Bordeaux amortized over the length of his contract will show something like £2.5m left to pay in the summer of 2018. Anything Sunderland can raise above that will be a neat bonus.