Watching Lamine Koné absolutely destroy Yaya Toure is one of the most impressive acts on a full debut that I can remember. The way in which Toure was left crumpled on the floor whilst Koné jogged away nonchalantly was nothing short of brilliant, and I think at that point most Sunderland fans took Lamine Koné to their hearts as a new club favourite.
The first game against Man City, I played well and after that, I just hit the ground running.
However, the following summer saw the new club’s new idol stumble from grace after the Ivorian drove across the country to Merseyside in an attempt at pushing through a rumoured £15 million deal with Everton. There was anger, dismay and shock from the Sunderland faithful as the betrayal played out before their eyes. Not only had our much-loved manager left us for pastures new, but would the rock at the heart of our defence be following him too after less than one year of his contract?
Things weren’t looking good.
Cue Koné giving a broken interview to fans outside the club’s training ground asserting the claim that the club had promised him a new deal. Only for David Moyes to come out and argue that, “I’ve told him if he stays, we will honour what was said to him and we will give him a new contract on September 1.”
Koné huffed and puffed, yet the club remained firm in their assertions - Koné would not be leaving Wearside that summer:
Koné will stay. The offer’s been rejected by me, yes. I’ve had that offer for a while now and I could have invested the money two weeks ago but doing that is very difficult. Given the prices, it would be very difficult to replace Lamine. Unless we could get a suitable replacement, I would never do the deal.
And so, the Ivorian remained on Wearside and his petulance was rewarded with a new and improved contract. However his performances failed to live up to expectations and Koné began to look increasingly disinterested with the club.
After relegation rumours began to circulate once more regarding the future of our brutish defender, would the man who swatted aside Yaya Toure in his opening game for the club be allowed to leave for a reduced price?
Well as of right now the answer would seemingly be no. Burnley are the bookmaker’s favourite linked to the hulking Ivorian, but odds of 9/2 suggest that talk of Koné leaving the club this summer are indeed just that: talk.
Therefore, Sunderland are left with an interesting decision to make regarding the future of Lamine Koné. On the one hand, Koné is undoubtedly a valuable player who if sold will almost certainly be done so at a profit; however, on the other hand the club must ask themselves whether they will be able to find a suitable replacement for the Ivorian who on his day looks unbeatable. It’s a tricky situation.
Ultimately, the fate of Lamine Koné rests solely in the hands of one man: Simon Grayson. The new boss certainly has a decision to make regarding the commanding defender, and that will be a choice that will be under the focus of much scrutiny.
Should Grayson cash in on Koné, fans will demand an adequate replacement other than that of John O’Shea who has recently signed a one-year contract extension - and would Galloway be enough? Alternatively, if Grayson opts to keep the defender then the question on everyone’s lips will be whether he was right to keep such a disruptive influence at the club in such a time of flux.
It’s an incredibly difficult decision for Simon Grayson to make, but whatever he chooses to do will signal his intentions ahead of the coming campaign. If Koné remains at the club then many will see that as a sign of Grayson retaining some of his more experienced, high-profile players in an attempt at a swift return to the Premier League - albeit with the help of a man who has looked incredibly keen on jumping ships.
But, if Koné leaves then many fans will view his sale as another asset being flogged in a desperate attempt at further reducing debts. Grayson finds himself between a rock and a hard place with this decision.
To be fair, the only thing that really matters in this situation is whether Simon Grayson views Koné as someone he can trust and build a team around in search of automatic promotion. Perhaps the two of them have bonded over the course of pre-season and Koné feels comfortable playing his trade in the Championship? Then again, perhaps Koné is on his way to Lancashire as we speak.
It’s a tricky situation for all: do you keep or sell a player who can most certainly make a difference at any level so long as he is happy? Will he be the key component to a campaign of joy, or the undercurrent of contempt desperately seeking an exit from our beloved club? Will he inspire those around him or create unease in the dressing room?
Lamine Koné proves a problem for Simon Grayson, and whatever the manager’s decision the fans will be keen to see what the former Preston boss does with his best defensive player ahead of what looks to be a tricky campaign. Let us know what you think the club should do with Koné below.
What should Sunderland do with Lamine Koné?
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