With West Ham reportedly growing frustrated over the negotiations for William Carvalho, attentions are rumoured to be turning towards Didier Ndong.
The Sunderland midfielder only made the move to Wearside last summer for a club-record fee, but is already being linked with a move back to the Premier League after the Black Cats’ relegation.
But, how exactly would Ndong shape up at the London Stadium? Is it a transfer Slaven Bilic should be chasing?
We got the inside tract on the Gabon international from the Sunderland Echo’sPhil Smith – and there’s some seriously impressive attributes that Ndong has…
Tell us more about Didier N’Dong?
It gives you a good indication that he is the only player to play every minute of Sunderland’s punishing schedule so far this season, and it hasn’t showed.
He is a player who first and foremost is about his athleticism. He has an irrepressible energy and can make box-to-box runs for 90 minutes without any let up.
There’s no comparison in terms of quality, at the moment anyway, but he is a ball winner in the Gueye/Kante mode. It’s about winning the ball back and moving it on quickly.
How did he perform in a struggling side last season?
Sunderland touted him as their record signing and I think when fans saw how raw he was, that was really used against him. He grew as the season developed, however, and by the end he was one of a only a handful of players to emerge with credit.
He was generally playing in a very pedestrian, very one-paced side and people came to appreciate the energy he brought and how he tried to lift the tempo.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
His biggest strength is his instinct. He has an excellent ability to spot when the time is right to drop deep and protect his defence, and when to engage. When he makes that call he is so quick and energetic across the ground that he invariably wins it.
He does have real quality on the ball but he can also give it away far too easily. That’s been the biggest criticism of his game on Wearside and definitely the area where he needs to make the most improvements.
Would Sunderland fans be disappointed to lose N’Dong?
He has his critics but yes on the whole there’d be a lot of disappointment.
There’s a recognition that he is quite a unique talent who would be very difficult to replace, particularly when it comes to his physical characteristics and that natural fitness.
He’s had a very good start to the season and it is clear that over the course of the season he has the potential to be one of the best players in the league.
Is he worth the quoted £16.5m price tag?
Its a fair price. He cost the best part of £13 million last summer. Since then he has improved as a player, had time to adapt to life in Britain, got a better handle of the language, learned what it takes to succeed in the Premier League.
It seems steep for a player still learning but he has four years left on his deal and is only going to get better. He is settled and playing well on Wearside, so Sunderland have no reason to sell on the cheap.
If Sam Clucas is worth £15 million, Ndong is worth the quoted price and I’d probably say a little bit more.
What would he bring to the West Ham team?
I’m a little surprised he’s being touted as an alternative to William Carvalho, who from what I’ve seen seems to be a bit more of an anchor type defensive midfielder.
Play Ndong there and you’ll be magnifying the weaknesses in his passing and taking away his big strength, which is to make those supporting runs in the opponent’s half.
I could see him working well with Mark Noble, though, the pair have a lot of energy and positional discipline which it looks like West Ham need.