Both Wahbi Khazri and Papy Djilobodji left Sunderland on transfer deadline day to halve the French-African contingent at the Stadium of Light.
First team regulars, Ivorian Lamine Kone and Gabonese international Didier Ndong remain, but Tunisian Khazri and Senagelese Djilobodji both departed on loan deals back to Ligue One.
Khazri claims he was not trusted by David Moyes and had concluded he would not play much this season either, whilst his former teammate Djilobodji suggests new Sunderland boss Simon Grayson had informed him he would continue not to feature in the Black Cats starting line-up.
In total Wahbi Khazri only started 20 league games for Sunderland following his January 2016 arrival. A regular under Sam Allardyce, the 26-year-old found himself more often than selected on the bench during David Moyes’ tenure.
The Tunisian international fared little better once Simon Grayson arrived and after one or two decent showings in pre-season, resumed his bit part role for the Black Cats, taking to the pitch for just 70 minutes in the league this season.
Speaking to French radio station RMC following his loan move to Rennes, Khazri suggests he did not hold out much hope of getting into the Sunderland starting eleven on a regular basis:
Last year I did not play much and this year I was not going to play either. I needed to find pleasure and to get some, so I’m happy to be in Rennes.
But the player who cost Sunderland a reported £9m a little over eighteen months ago, suggests he does not regret trying his luck on this side of the channel and that his failure to impose himself into the Black Cats team on a regular basis was the departure of Sam Allardyce:
No I do not regret having chosen England. I leave on the basis of a loan with option to purchase and it was an exceptional first six months and we managed to escape [relegation]...
After that there were circumstances. A coach who is leaving and who had brought me here [to Sunderland] and a new coach who arrives with his players and does not trust me and does not make me play.
For his part, Khazri’s former teammate Papy Djilobodji suggests that after barely featuring in a Sunderland shirt during 2017, he was told he would remain out of Simon Grayson’s plans:
Since the start of the season in Sunderland I have not been playing. The coach told me this would be the case after the international break. I replied that I had already chosen to leave.
The former Nantes man who signed for Chelsea in 2015 before infamously managing just 59 seconds in a Blues shirt, was an £8m arrival at the Stadium of Light last summer.
Djilobodji played just 18 times for the Black Cats and the number of good performances he racked up can be counted on one hand.
The ex-Senagalese international will be remembered on Wearside for challenging Valentin Roberge and Santiago Vergini as the worst central defenders seen at Sunderland in the Premier League era.