‘Where is he?’
‘Why’s it taking so long to announce him?’
‘Does he even exist? What’s the hold up?’
These are just some of the complaints that have been thrown around as one of the most protracted and challenging Sunderland transfers of recent times has slowly unfolded, with the most recent update about Nazariy Rusyn’s arrival coming on deadline day, when the club confirmed his signing, pending international clearance.
Then, on Wednesday morning, came a quite simply brilliant video, unveiling Rusyn as a Sunderland player against the stunning backdrop of Penshaw Monument. Bombastic, theatrical, and very much in keeping with the modern ways of football-related social media content.
Has it been frustrating? Perhaps, but let’s be honest, it’s not every transfer window that Sunderland have attempted to sign a player from a country embroiled in a long, violent, and dreadfully costly war as Vladimir Putin’s rampant expansionism shows no signs of abating and Rusyn’s homeland continues to suffer as a result.
In the not-too-distant past, we sometimes found it too easy to sign any old riff raff instead of adopting a more forward-thinking approach that didn’t limit us to players within a certain narrow bracket, but that cycle has clearly been broken now.
Indeed, Michael Walker from The Athletic summed it up when responding to a deadline-day query about Rusyn by replying, “There is a war in Ukraine. It is not a straightforward situation.”
All things considered, it’s not as if we could simply send a private jet to Eastern Europe, pick up Rusyn and shuttle him back to the United Kingdom in double-quick time.
It’s clearly been a challenge, but the most important thing is that he’s here and he’s now one of our own.
What our persistence does demonstrate is exactly how determined we’ve been to bring the forward to the Stadium of Light, and exactly how much faith is being placed in him to become a success in red and white.
Shopping in such markets is something unfamiliar to us, and certainly in recent times, but as our scouting network has broadened and we’ve nabbed players from different leagues, the end result has been the creation of a young, vibrant and cosmopolitan Sunderland team- one into which Rusyn could fit quite neatly.
At twenty four and with a decent amount of league and Champions League experience under his belt, Rusyn neatly straddles the divide between a young prospect and a more experienced head, and quite how he fits into our attack will be intriguing.
In theory, it feels as though he could be a wide forward in the Nathan Broadhead mould, which is exactly the kind of attacker I feel we’ve needed for some time.
With Mason Burstow, Hemir and Eliezer Mayenda (when fit) providing the physicality upfront, Rusyn could be more of an elusive attacker, capable of making darting runs into space, stretching defences and finishing chances effectively, as well as possibly setting up goals himself.
Just as Broadhead often worked so well in partnership with Ross Stewart, there’s every chance that Rusyn could dovetail with one of the three players mentioned above, adding a new dimension to our attack and giving Tony Mowbray some much-needed scope to tweak things as he wishes.
Rusyn’s numbers, albeit in leagues of questionable overall quality, are strong and his European experience should mean that he adjusts to a club of our stature quite well, but of course there’s an element of the unknown surrounding his signing.
This is a common theme with Sunderland signings of 2023, and although it would’ve doubtless been easy to dip into the free agent market, it’s obvious that the recruitment team are determined to move us away from quick fixes and ‘he’ll do a job for X amount of months’-type signings.
The likes of Rusyn are clearly seen as players who can help the club to move forward during the coming seasons. That’s good enough for me, and looking further afield for new signings is an exciting break from being linked with the same old names with every transfer window that unfolds.
Evolution, not revolution, is the name of the game at Sunderland nowadays, and this young Ukrainian attacker is clearly viewed as another key piece of the squad that’s assembling at the Stadium of Light. Let’s hope that he makes the most of the opportunity that he’s been given.