Sunderland boss says Wahbi Khazri could play this season

Wahbi Khazri in action against Hibs.
Wahbi Khazri in action against Hibs.

Simon Grayson believes Wahbi Khazri could yet play a part in Sunderland’s Championship campaign.

After a frustrating season in which the Tunisian could not force his way into David Moyes’ plans, the talented playmaker was expected to leave the club.

European sides such as Marseille and Fenerbahce have been linked with a swoop, but, as of yet, Sunderland are yet to field any bids for the 26-year-old.

He has made a big impression in pre-season already, influential in the comeback against Bury on Friday night and simply superb in the first half against Hibernian at Easter Road.

Starting on the left flank, Khazri caused havoc throughout as he drifted infield, scoring a fine volley just before half-time and striking the bar with a free-kick in the opening stages.

Grayson has been impressed with the attacking midfielder and, while he hinted that a good bid would likely lead to his departure, he said Khazri could have a big part to play should he wish to stay at the club.

He said: “He’s a talented player and that’s why he is at Sunderland.

“He’s played at the Premiership. Time will tell who will stay at the football club.

“Every player at every club has a price and you will be looking to see what is happening at different clubs, but, while they’re here, they’ll do what’s required and do everything to try and get in the team for the first game of the season.”

“You’ve seen in the two games that he’s a good player, and we want to keep good players.

“It’s then up to other clubs or the individuals to decide possibly if they don’t want to be at this football club.

“While they are still here, we will utilise them, and do whatever is needed to keep them or get rid of them, whatever the case might be,” he added.

“Who knows what’s around the corner with any of the players?

“Somebody might come in and offer money for one of our players that nobody is talking about at the moment. That’s just football. Lukaku goes for £75million when a few days ago nobody really expected him to go to Man United.”

The draw with Hibernian also marked the return of Jeremain Lens in Sunderland action, a year since he joined Turkish club Fenerbahce in a season-long loan deal.

The Dutchman is almost certain to leave this summer, though, as of yet, the Black Cats are yet to receive a bid.

Lens played off the right wing and scored a fine goal, but also struggled to retain possession in what was a mixed showing.

How long he remains at the club remains to be seen but Grayson insisted that as long as no move materialises the pair will play an active part in pre-season.

He said: “While they’re still here and being paid as Sunderland players they’ll be doing every session with the rest of the lads, they’re not out here for a jolly up, they’ll earn their money.

“While they’re here, we’ll utilise them and if anything changes, so be it.”

Grayson has made no secret of his desire to add extra competition in the wide areas, with a move for Aiden McGeady close. He also has a strong interested in Bournemouth winger Max Gradel, who he managed at Leeds United to great success.

He said: “Things are ticking along.

“We’ve been linked with a host of players.

“Some are players that might interest us, others are players that are totally way off the mark.

“We’ll just be moving along with the players that we are in contact with at the moment.

“There will be players coming in without a shadow of a doubt – they might not be the ones that people are talking about though.”

The Black Cats have also been linked with Brentford midfielder Ryan Woods.