At the time of writing, it looks as though Sunderland’s best home-grown product of a generation – and one of two bright sparks from an otherwise torrid season – is bidding farewell to the club.
I don’t hold it against him at all. At no point last season did Jordan Pickford’s passion or application drop, even when the players in front of him consistently left him horribly exposed. With his scintillating distribution and lightning reflexes, he has the attributes that all of the world’s elite clubs dream of in a ‘keeper and a sublime attitude to boot. Although he’s not graduating to an elite level club right now, Everton are the ideal place for him to further flourish and, a means of ensuring he gets to that level.
That being said, an injection of £30m into the club - admittedly through a range of complex installments – must surely help the massive rebuilding job required this summer. With pre-season starting in two weeks and with Sunderland still (infuriatingly) managerless, whoever does pick up the reins may well have a few more pennies to play with than originally thought.
Under the Scout’s microscope this week isn’t a goalkeeper to replace the departing raver but a left-back regarded as one of the top prospects outside of Europe’s top leagues. Couple that with the fact he plies his trade at Le Havre – a club renowned for its insatiable conveyor belt of young talent – Ferland Mendy could be a great addition for many a club across the continent this summer.
It may seem strange that this week’s episode is looking at a left-back – arguably the area of the pitch where strengthening is of least importance. That being said, the Championship is a long, arduous slog, and Bryan Oviedo will need competition this season regardless. Ferland Mendy is the complete full-back, very much in the mould of his Monaco namesake who is arguably the best left-back in the world right now, and would surely make the spot his own if he did end up donning the pinstripes come August.
The prototypical, modern-day full-back needs to be quick, strong, have an engine like a Land Rover Defender and an astute sense of positioning. In addition to that, he needs to contribute to his side’s attack every bit as much as he does the defence, and be able to deliver telling crosses consistently. Players like this generally don’t play for Sunderland, or in the case of Danny Rose and Marcos Alonso, spend a year there for their own development before leaving them in the rear-view mirror.
There’s no doubting that Mendy is an ambitious target for a club who will struggle to compete with other clubs in the transfer market this summer, but for the Monaco’s he’s been linked with, he’s also been linked to Birmingham City. Le Havre are said to value him at £7m, and it would be an absolute snip for a player of his quality. Brighton, Palace, Watford and West Brom have also been credited with an interest in Mendy, whilst Marseille and Lyon may offer him an opportunity to remain in France.
Mendy was pretty much ever-present for Le Havre last season, starting 34 of the 35 league matches he appeared in, contributing two goals and five assists in the process. There’s no doubt he’ll be making a switch somewhere this summer, and if Sunderland could push a deal through it would be a coup for the club, and a real statement.