STEPHANE Sessegnon IS part of Paolo Di Canio’s plans at the Stadium of Light, the Sunderland head coach has confirmed.
It has been a second successive summer of speculation regarding Sessegnon’s future, despite the Benin international starting all five of Sunderland’s pre-season friendlies.
Sunderland were understood to be willing to listen to offers for Sessegnon earlier in the summer, while interest emerged earlier this week from Qatari side Al-Jaish.
But after being impressed by Sessegnon’s attitude during pre-season, Di Canio wants the 29-year-old to be part of his overhauled Black Cats side.
Di Canio said: “He’s part of my plans.
“Anything can happen, not just with Sess, John O’Shea, anybody.
“But with what I’ve seen from him during the summer, we’ve now got a good footballer.”
Di Canio says he has seen a changed personality from Sessegnon over recent weeks too.
The former Paris St-Germain forward, who penned a new Sunderland contract last August, is one of the most reserved characters in the Black Cats dressing room.
But Di Canio believes the new regime at the Academy of Light – which sees the entire squad sit down together for lunch after training – has produced more unity among his players.
“I don’t want to say he’s becoming joker,” added Di Canio.
“But he’s speaking at the table when they’re having lunch and making a joke.
“That proves that there’s been a change.
“It is not because of Paolo Di Canio. It’s because of the environment we’ve changed.
“It’s helped people to push out and relate with the others and show their personality.
“He is never going to be the most open man in the world because he is shy, but with his team-mates, he is open.
“Before when I tried to speak to Sess five minutes after training, someone would say ‘he’s gone’.
“He would have a quick shower and go.
“Now the fact he spends time with the others, you can see, that he’s having fun and that will help on the field.