After 54 games, Didier Ndong has traded Wearside for Hertfordshire, signing a loan deal with Javi Gracia’s Watford FC until the end of the current season.
The Gabonese international showed glimpses of an undeniable talent, yet never truly flourished at the Stadium of Light and will leave fans split in their opinion as to whether the former Lorient man has been a success at the club.
Ndong’s departure comes alongside the news that Ovie Ejaria is set to be confirmed as his replacement. Fans will certainly hope that the young Liverpool player will be able to offer something to the Sunderland midfield that Ndong was never quite capable of producing.
Ndong’s departure will be the catalyst for not only Ejaria’s arrival, but the funds generated through the loan fee and wages saved will also see the club push through deals for players in other positions too before the deadline closes.
A club record signing, Ndong arrived at Sunderland for a fee of €16m - a little over £14m - on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2016 and he joins Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens, Papy Djilobodji and Whabi Khazri as expensive signings who the club have only been able to shift out on loan.
Despite clearly overpaying for the Gabon international, the deal is suspected to be a drawn out affair with installments spread over many years but as is the case with most big deals Sunderland are involved with, we will yet again lose money.
But why are Watford so keen to acquire him? We’re not exactly sure ourselves, so in order to find out the crack from down South I spoke briefly to Watford FC blog ‘The Hornet’s Nest’ to get their take on what is going on and whether they necessarily need the player in their charge towards the end of the current season.
@HornetsNestWFC on their signing of Didier Ndong...
I’ve certainly not been blown away by the rumours of Ndong joining, especially after we’ve just signed Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona. Looking at his record, he hasn’t exactly set the Stadium of Light ablaze.
I can’t see him being one of our starting options. Our midfield is arguably our strongest area this season, with the likes of Pereyra, Doucouré, Cleverley, Chalobah and Hughes, but given our current injury crisis at the club (Chalobah and Hughes still injured, Cleverley starting to come back) he’ll be a player that’s there to fill the void before our players return to full fitness.
He doesn’t exactly sound like he’s the player we need - we’ve been lacking goals so ideally need someone who can contribute in that department too!
Since the Pozzos joined our Head Coach has never really had a say in transfer targets. This was one of the reasons the relationship between Silva and the owners disintegrated to such an extent.
Gracia has already said in one of his press conferences that he’s not in charge of transfers and that his job is just to coach the team. Who knows, with our current injury crisis Ndong may get a chance to play and develop, otherwise I can’t see him making much impact at all.
That doesn’t exactly bode well, does it?
Of course, the structure of the deal remains unclear, but Chris Coleman alluded that it worked more in our favour than their previous offer, so who knows.
What is for sure is that Ndong is entering an incredibly competitive environment and he’ll either sink or swim. He has to stand out above some quality players or he’ll play about as much at Watford as he has at Sunderland - and that benefits nobody.