Out on loan Sunderland forward Wahbi Khazri has been shortlisted for the Marc-Vivien Foé Trophy following his successful season so far out on loan with Ligue 1 side Rennes.
The award - which is held currently by OGC Nice midfielder Jean-Michaël Seri - is given each season to the best African player in Ligue 1 as voted for by 100 journalists that specialise in African and French football.
It’s believed that the Ajaccio-born playmaker is one of the front-runners for the Trophy, and the winner will be announced on May 14th - just days before the completion of the current season.
Khazri has been in scintillating form with the side currently occupying fifth in the top flight of French football, and has scored eleven goals so far this season for his club.
Despite starting the campaign as part of Simon Grayson’s Sunderland squad, the belief was always that he’d eventually leave us during the summer transfer window - something he eventually did when he joined Sabri Lamouchi’s side on deadline day on a season-long loan.
Although the move to Brittany represented a chance for a fresh start for the Tunisian international, nobody could have possibly expected that he’d have the impact that he’s had.
In fact, Khazri has became so important to Rennes that just this week fellow Tunisian Lamouchi spoke glowingly of his impact in the dressing room, praising his leadership qualities in an interview following his side’s draw with Nice at the weekend:
Wahbi is our leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. We are taking advantage of him. I hope that it [the loan spell] will end well and we will all be in the same state of mind.
Interesting, then, that Khazri attitude and professionalism were so often called into question when he was a Sunderland player - perhaps he’s changed, perhaps he’s just enjoying his football, or perhaps (and it’s more than likely just this) Sunderland was just the wrong club for him.
Rumours have continually circulated in the French media regarding his future come the end of the season, with the expectancy being that Olympique Marseille will be at the front of the queue when it comes to signing him.
According to 10Sport, Rudi Garcia is keen on securing the signature of both Khazri and former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, with the outlet suggesting that Khazri could be available for as little as two million euros come the end of the season.
Sunderland look likely to be relegated to League One but, even if a miracle occurs, a fire-sale is still scheduled and high-earners like the former Bordeaux man - who is on a reported £35,000-per-week contract - will be the first ones that the club look to quickly usher out of the door.
What seems patently obvious at this stage is that Khazri, who also takes to the stage with Tunisia at this summer’s World Cup finals, won’t be short of suitors this coming summer if his fine club and international form continues.
Full list of contenders for the Marc-Vivien Foé Trophy:
Keita Baldé Diao (AS Monaco / Senegal) Matthieu Dossevi (Metz / Togo) Max-Alain Gradel (Toulouse / Ivory Coast) Gaël Kakuta (Amiens / DR Congo ) Wahbi Khazri (Rennes / Tunisia) Moussa Konaté (Amiens / Senegal) Nicolas Pépé (Lille / Ivory Coast) Jean-Michaël Seri (Nice / Ivory Coast) Julio Tavares (Dijon / Cape Verde) Karl Toko-Ekambi (Angers / Cameroon) Bertrand Traore (Lyon / Burkina Faso) Hamari Traore (Rennes / Mali) Frank Zambo-Anguissa (Marseille / Cameroon)