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Patrick Van Aanholt: Healthy Profit or Worrying Sale?

Patrick Van Aanholt is a player that has split opinion among the Sunderland faithful since the beginning of his career with the club. Quick, direct and not shy in the opposition’s final third, Van Aanholt has a reputation as a defender that doesn’t like to defend. His recent sale has once more caused friction between fans who wonder whether the sale was the right thing to do or not?

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The recent sale of Patrick Van Aanholt to fellow strugglers, Crystal Palace, has left fans split in their opinion as to whether his sale was a good piece business, or not. Signed for a fee of around £1.5 million back in the summer of 2014, PVA amassed 88 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 8 goals in the process - including several crucial strikes in the last two great escapes.

As of Monday, however, the pacey Dutchman is no longer a Sunderland player having signed for Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace in a deal alleged to be worth somewhere around £14 million including add-ons. There is not doubt that from a financial perspective the deal is a beneficial one when you consider how little we paid for Van Aanholt’s services, but is selling one of your better players to a relegation rival ever a good idea?

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier League
Former boss Allardyce has raided his old club to secure Van Aanholt’s services, but is it a good deal for Sunderland?
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

As already noted, from a financial point of view the sale of PVA represents a tidy sum of profit - somewhere north of £10 million in theory. That obviously doesn’t factor in wages and bonuses, but purely in terms of cash paid to secure his services.

One would imagine that club have paid off the relatively small sum of £1.5 million needed to purchase the player back in 2014, and therefore, most of the cash gained from the deal has been reinvested to secure the services of Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo for a mooted combined total of around £7.5 million.

Keep in mind that Chelsea reportedly had a 30% sell-on clause inserted into the deal, meaning either they take 30% of our profit, or indeed 30% of the entire deal (it’s not totally clear). Leaving us with somewhere around £8 million left to do with what we please - in this case, more than likely fund the purchases of Oviedo and Gibson.

Either way, the club seem to have made a tidy some of money on the sale of Van Aanholt which has been reinvested in acquiring new playing staff: surely that’s a good deal, right?

Chelsea v Everton - Premier League
Will Oviedo prove to be a good deal? Costing less than half the price required to pry Van Aanholt from Wearside - Oviedo must now prove his worth.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Is it ever really a good idea to sell one of your better players midway through a season? Especially when said player has been one of your better performing players?

Only 4 players have managed to score for Sunderland in the league this season, and PVA was one of those having managed 3 goals from his roaming wing-back position. In fact during the two-and-a-half years that Van Aanholt spent on Wearside, the Dutchman has managed to bag 8 goals and 9 assists. Pretty decent going for a left-back playing for a team constantly battling relegation; could he perhaps flourish and be even more productive in a better team?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Palace are a better team, by any means, but Allardyce’s newly adopted 5-3-2 system will suit PVA to a tee. The new formation coupled with the purchase of holding midfielder, Luka Milivojevic, will allow Van Aanholt the freedom to push further forward and create opportunities both for himself and others.

It says a lot that some of Sunderland’s best results this season came when Paddy McNair sat deep on the left of the midfield to cover Van Aanholt’s surging runs - think Hull and Leicester at home. Last season saw Jan Kirchhoff and Yann M’Vila cover for the flying Dutchman, however, since McNair’s injury earlier this campaign, no player has adequately provided defensive assistance to Van Aanholt meaning the Dutch international’s defensive frailties have been highlighted more so than his attacking accomplishments.

Burnley v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Adding PVA to the attacking threats of Benteke, Townsend and Zaha will certainly boost Palace’s chances of survival.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It’s not just the sale of a good player that some fans are disappointed about, though. Some fans have argued that selling an important player to a relegation rival is a sign of weakness - almost an affirmation that relegation is upon us.

It’s an interesting notion, and you can understand both sides of the argument. On one hand selling a player you intend to replace isn’t necessarily a bad idea - especially if the manager is confident of bringing someone else in to do as good a job, if not better. But then again, selling to a team directly competing with you to stay in the league does indeed give off a rather alarming signal. holding onto Lamine Kone and Jermain Defoe were critical to any chance of survival - was Patrick Van Aanholt really that crucial?

In essence we have to put our faith in the notion that Bryan Oviedo will be able to fill the void left by PVA, whilst also understanding that financially the sale of Van Aanholt has enabled us to bring in two extra bodies to a squad ravaged by injuries.

It’s been a difficult winter, and there’s no guarantee that the Spring will bring any growth to our ailing club; however, selling Patrick Van Aanholt has been a decent bit of business. It has given us the opportunity to bring two experienced players into our squad who seemingly want to be here, and want to fight for their places whilst also enabling us to turn a profit on a player who in all honesty has struggled for consistency and form.

We might have sold him to a relegation rival, but should Oviedo and Gibson prove their worth for the remained of this campaign - few will lament the loss of Van Aanholt.

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