Manchester City defender Jason Denayer has revealed he ‘wasn’t too happy’ about being sent on loan to Sunderland last term and objected to being asked to spend a season at a club which would be fighting to avoid the drop.
Faced with another year away from the Etihad next season - already his fourth stint on loan - the 22-year-old reveals he is set on a collision course with Pep Guardiola over his destination for next season and that he didn’t want to move to the Stadium of Light last summer, telling Belgium’s Sport Voetbal magazine:
Last year, on the last day of the transfer period, there was an atmosphere at City like at the last day of school.
Everyone was leaving. Joe Hart to Torino and another one to Spain, and then they told me that I had to go to Sunderland, where I would be battling whole season against relegation.
But like the true trooper he proved to be during the course of the campaign for Sunderland - one which culminated in suggestions he may have feigned injury, Denayer insists he didn’t go in the huff initially when asked to move to Wearside:
I wasn’t too happy about that [moving to Sunderland], but I decided not to sulk too much. It could have been worse. Anyway, it doesn’t help you forward either.
Denayer played in 24 Premier League games for the Black Cats last season in a mixture of positions alternating between centre-half, defensive midfielder and an occasional stint at full-back.
In truth, he was a master of none and after some initial promise in a holding role in front of the back four - which waned as the season wore on - the Belgian did look more comfortable when playing at centre-back.
Supposedly Denayer was keen to return to Galatasaray last summer after spending the previous season in Istanbul before Pep Guardiola intervened and decreed that Turkish football was not of a standard which would aid the player’s development.
Denayer had been a popular figure in Turkey, as he had been a year prior at Celtic. Following that spell in Glasgow, the Brussels-born defender decreed that he had found Scottish football ‘too easy’ and generally the player who made one woeful appearance at Euro 2016 can be accused of having an over-inflated sense of himself.
And his attitude to last season’s stint at the Stadium of Light sums up the perennial problem of loaning players for a club like Sunderland.
Indeed, reading some of Denayer’s other comments in this interview, aside from featuring in a table-topping side, it’s difficult to understand the issue that a player who has achieved little in the game would have had with a year at a club like Sunderland:
I have always had certain priorities in my career choices. Now it's first and foremost a club that plays at the top of the league. In addition, in a pleasant city and with good supporters, who create a lot of noise at home.
Even worse are his views of Wearside compared with Istanbul:
You can’t compare. England, it’s stressful, everything needs to be done quickly. Turkey was more for me, people are more relaxed. And Istanbul is a beautiful city, the beach is nearby, it’s great.
Nothing like Sunderland where it was quite difficult at times. There’s nothing there, apart from a small shopping centre. It’s really small.
This is a professional footballer of course, more concerned with shopping centres and having a relaxed vibe to enjoy in the area in which he earns a living, than achieving anything on the pitch.
And he sums up the problems at Sunderland neatly.
Recruitment at the Stadium of Light has been an issue for several years and new manager Simon Grayson indicated on his arrival that he was acutely aware of the problems the Black Cats have had with over-paying players who have had little desire to represent Wearside and its football club.
And it’s probably fair to say that loan signings who have come and gone through the Stadium of Light in recent Premier League years had been steadily getting less and less committed to playing for Sunderland with few making much of an impact on the pitch.
Of the 30 loan signings at the Stadium of Light in the last decade, probably less than a third could be considered a ‘success’, culminating in last season’s sorry trio of Denayer, Adnan Januzaj and Javier Manquillo.
Rare highlights in the Premier league such as Danny Welbeck, Yann M’Vila and Danny Rose have been outnumbered by the likes of Ricky Alvarez, Ondrej Celustka and Santiago Vergini.
Perhaps Simon Grayson will have more success this summer and the prospect of Championship football may attract a different breed of player willing to come to Sunderland on loan and fight for promotion rather than face the grind of a relegation scrap.