Jeremain Lens is back on Wearside and back where he likes to be - at the centre of attention. But despite proving what we already knew since his return to the Black Cats pre-season squad - that he would destroy Championship defences - Sunderland are still actively looking to sell the 29-year-old.
Lens has marked his return with a bang, scoring a cool-as-you-like smasher against Livingston on Wednesday night just hours after he’d attracted attention for a mysterious social media post. So, yes the ‘bad boy’ Dutchman walks amongst us once again and he’s got everyone watching for his next move.
That tweet was interpreted in some quarters as a come-and-get-me plea, but was likely just a slightly clumsy attempt at declaring himself ready to take to the pitch at the Almondvale Stadium mid-week.
Pre-season mask Say no more @SunderlandAFC pic.twitter.com/BLlKndXZRL— Jeremain Lens (@jeremainlens) July 12, 2017
If Lens' demeanour in the two pre-season games in which he’s played has suggested he’s undecided at best about staying at Sunderland, his mask did slip upon scoring that 25-yard injury time belter mid-week.
The winger couldn’t hide his glee at tying the Scottish Championship side’s defence in knots before floating a 25-yarder past Livingston’s flat-footed ‘keeper.
Watch @jeremainlens' screamer and all the other action from tonight's 3-0 win over @LiviFCOfficial.— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 12, 2017
➡️ https://t.co/gKN5zZOo06 pic.twitter.com/Ntn80MdQjO
With a universal acceptance that Lens would be one of the best players in the old Second Division next season, many Sunderland supporters are willing to put the winger’s objectionable attitude to one side and watch what he can do to Championship defenders.
However, it’s still unlikely he’ll stay. The Sunderland hierarchy are still pushing to sell Jeremain Lens and the Black Cats assume a deal will be concluded for him to move on long before the transfer window closes.
And with Simon Grayson happy to go about his business of swiftly and seamlessly rebuilding the squad bit-by-bit, bringing in like-for-like replacements for those about to depart, the Black Cats’ boss landing Aiden McGeady will surely shove Lens that bit nearer the exit door.
The same will probably be true for Lamine Kone. The Ivorian defender is unlikely to enter talks with his prospective suitors - said to be Burnley and West Ham - until such point as the Sunderland manager has assured himself of landing a suitable replacement.
As for the future of Wahbi Khazri - who knows. The Tunisian appears to be enjoying himself torturing opposition defenders at will in pre-season and he looks fitter and ever more willing to work his socks off than the player who David Moyes tried to break last term.
But whilst the speculation surrounding Jeremain Lens’ future has gone a little quiet, the prospect of him donning a Sunderland shirt long into to the Championship campaign still seems remote.
It is over a week since the Dutchman declared he had received no firm approach to return to Fenerbahçe despite manager Aykut Kocaman appearing to suggest that the Istanbul club had laid an offer on the table.
And whilst the occasional volley of links to Beşiktaş flare up in the Turkish media, Sunderland’s insistence on receiving a fee close to their valuation plus the player’s wage demands mean there is still something of a waiting game to play out in the case of the maddening wingman before he finally departs for good.