Out of all of Sunderland's rumoured transfer targets, which is quite a large list already, Valentin Roberge appears to be the most concrete link. From a report claiming the player had agreed to a Bosman transfer, to the player travelling to Sunderland, against the wishes of his club, for talks and a medical.
Before we get to his playing style, let's have a look at his background.
Roberge started his career with spells at various French minnows, ESD Montreuil, Les Lilas FC and Paris FC, before he was spotted and snapped up by Guingamp. He left Guingamp after a year as they wished to retain him under an amateur licence before his former coach at Les Lilas, Maodo Deme, got the defender a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Although he spent his time at PSG in their B side, Roberge was in no doubt how important his spell with the French giants was to his career;
The year at PSG was a decisive boost to my career. The group was made up of pros and academy hopefuls. It ended with the best defence in the championship!
It was while playing for PSG B that Roberge was spotted by former PSG player and head of recruitment for Aris, Edvin Murati. Who then signed him for the Greek side on a 3-year contract, his first professional contract.
On his debut for Aris, against Panathinaikos, the kick-off had to be delayed due to the amount of projectiles thrown onto the pitch but the player didn't let that effect him and after a solid start had a very successful first professional season. So successful in fact that the player had earned himself a move to Spanish side, Racing Santander. Unfortunately for Roberge, the transfer broke down at the last minute after the clubs had agreed a fee and he had agreed a 4-year-contract with the La Liga side.
After that blow, things went from bad to worse for the defender during the following season when the economic crisis in Greece saw Aris struggling to pay players' wages. Roberge went 5 months without getting paid, a situation that resulted in his contract being terminated. The terms of the termination saw Roberge paid the 5 month wages he was owed but in exchange he wouldn't be permitted to play for another Greek side until 2013.
Those terms meant he was then unemployed for six months until he signed for Liga ZON Sagres side Maritimo. Thankfully his fortunes improved and he made himself an integral part of the Madeira based side.
After that, lengthy, introduction, it's time to investigate his playing style. Roberge is 25-years-old and, although capable of filling in at left back, is a central defender by trade. Standing 6'1", he is noted at being a tough-tackling, exceptionally strong but technically proficient centre-back.
Roberge's compatriot, Vincent Sasso, who also plays in Portugal but for Braga is two inches taller than Roberge but said of the Maritimo player;
I had the opportunity to play several times against him, and the guy is really super strong.
In 97 games for Maritimo, he has accrued 28 yellow cards and 3 red cards, a tally which backs up the tough-tackling assertion. Although he seems to be a typical no-nonsense centre-back, the defender can actually play a bit as well. He's comfortable with the ball at this feet, likes to bring the ball out of defence, has an eye for a pass and, although not especially fast, has good acceleration.
A big plus point and one that will make him stand out when compared to recent Sunderland central defenders, is the fact he's never had any significant injuries (in fact has not missed more than a handful of games in his entire career due to injury) and is supremely fit.
However, similar to our recent report on Diakité, Roberge hasn't played an awful lot of games considering his age, with just 124 appearances to his name. His contract dispute at Aris and subsequent unemployment, as well as the fact there are only 30 top flight games per season in Portugal has to be factored in but that lack of experience has to be a slight worry. It also remains to be seen how he will adapt to the Premier League after spells in Greece and Portugal, although his good performances in the Europa League during the 12/13 season, including two games against Newcastle, suggest that he is capable of making the step up.
To sum up;
- Extremely strong
- Excellent injury record
- Very comfortable on the ball
- Picks up a lot of yellow cards
- No experience in a top European league
With the impending release of Bramble and Kilgallon, the signing of Valentin Roberge looks an astute purchase. He's a good age, 26-years-old next week, and is available on a free. Being left-footed will add balance to our defence and, on paper, should be a good partner for either John O'Shea or even Modibo Diakité (should he sign).