According to French daily newspaper L’Equipe, Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong will join Watford on loan for the rest of the season with an £8m option to make the deal a permanent one in the summer.
Ndong joined the Black Cats from Lorient in the summer of 2016 in a reported £13.6m deal to become the club’s record signing. The fee paid to the then-Ligue 1 outfit surpassed the £13m Sunderland paid Rennes in 2010 for Assomoah Gyan.
The 23-year-old has featured 17 times in the Championship this season but has been out injured for much of the last couple of months. Ndong pulled up in the second half of the Tees-Wear derby on Bonfire night and has since only made a couple of brief appearances from the bench.
Reportedly nursing an ankle injury, the Gabon international returned to training this week and Ndong was expected to be in the Sunderland squad which will face Cardiff City on Saturday.
The midfielder has only played 39 minutes of football under Chris Coleman and there have been suggestions his days on Wearside are numbered.
The Black Cats boss is desperate to raise funds to launch a mini squad rebuild with his side bottom of the Championship and a loan exit for Ndong will presumably do little to help that.
Sunderland were unable to attract transfer fees for Jeremain Lens, Fabio Borini, Wahbi Khazri and Papy Djilobodji last summer. The former two will supposedly have their deals made permanent at the end of the season with £10m or so swelling the Stadium of Light coffers as a result; but the latter pair - on loan in France - have no options to buy in their deals with Stade Rennais and FCO Dijon respectively.
Ndong has never convinced the majority of Sunderland fans that he was worth his supposed hefty price tag. Taking a while to adapt to English football in his maiden season in the Premier League, Ndong began to show promise before the African Cup of Nations which took place this time last year.
On his return, as the Black Cats limped to relegation under David Moyes, few in a red-and-white shirt performed, but Ndong has continued to underwhelm in the second-tier this season - in a division he was expected to impress in.
Never quite able to stamp his authority in the middle of the park, Ndong’s athleticism is often let down by his decision-making and inability to pick out a key pass. The 23-year-old has looked every bit a player who wanted to be anywhere but Wearside and his exit may yet make sense for all parties.