Bolton Wanderers have signed Sunderland fan favourite Jan Kirchhoff on a short-term deal until the end of the season following a short period on trial with the side placed 19th in the table.
The former Bayern Munich defender-cum-midfielder left Wearside last summer after an 18-month stint with the club, the latter year of which he largely spent recovering from hamstring and knee problems.
Since his departure from the North East, Kirchhoff has spent time away from the game recovering from the nagging injuries which have plagued him for many years. But, having proved his fitness after joining up with the Trotters at the start of the week, he has penned a contract with Phil Parkinson’s side that will see him make up part of their squad as they continue to battle against immediate demotion back to whence they came following their promotion last season.
This has, of course, led to many Sunderland supporters asking themselves - rightly or wrongly - one very straight-forward question: “WHY DIDN’T WE SIGN HIM?!”
It’s fairly obvious why people feel that way - we tend to fondly remember the incredible highs we experienced with Kirchhoff in our team, staving off relegation as part of Sam Allardyce’s squad at the heart of our midfield alongside Yann M’Vila.
The big German played a massive role in our survival from the drop in 2016, featuring fifteen times between when he signed for us January and the end of that season.
I’m not crying... you are... pic.twitter.com/BM2oaMK1KC— Roker Report (@RokerReport) February 22, 2018
Time is a great healer, though, and it’s easily forgotten that Kirchhoff’s final year with the club found him to be largely unavailable to David Moyes as we crashed out of the top flight in a somewhat meek fashion, ending the campaign on a measly 24 points.
The reason his career with Bundesliga high-fliers Bayern Munich fell apart was also largely due to to his injury problems, and despite his undoubted talent he’s spent the majority of his career on and off the physio table battling issues that have continually hampered him from a very young age.
Kirchhoff completed an hour for Bolton’s U23s in their 1-0 win over Burnley on Wednesday and it was that performance that convinced the Trotters to offer the former Germany U21 international terms to keep him in the North West for the remainder of this season.
If he’s fit, he’s a top class performer, but you have to think that the length of time it has taken for him to find a new club says it all - ultimately, his sketchy record with fitness has not endeared him to potential suitors who likely fear that he’d break down again just as often as he did when he was a Sunderland player.
Add to that the fact that Sunderland are more than likely burned from having paid his wages for all of last season - despite him being nowhere near the pitch - and it’d be fair to suggest that there was never really a chance that we’d have been prepared to bring him back on board again.
If he stays fit and shows what he’s truly capable of, Kirchhoff will not only keep Bolton up - perhaps even at Sunderland’s expense - but he’ll also more than likely earn himself a move to a decent-sized club in the summer, so it’s a deal that works for both parties.