SUNDERLAND will not rebuff offers for Stephane Sessegnon this summer.
The ball wizard and fans’ favourite has been linked with moves to France and China in recent weeks, though no firm offer has yet been received by the Black Cats from either country.
But, unlike last season, Sunderland WILL consider offers this time around, if interested clubs meet their valuation for the Benin international.
Last summer, Martin O’Neill was determined to keep hold of a player who is among the most gifted to wear a Sunderland shirt.
The Northern Irishman hoped that with highly-rated James McClean on one wing and newly-signed England winger Adam Johnson on the other, Sessegnon would have more space to flourish and help Sunderland push towards a top-10 finish.
But after a summer of speculation over his future, Sessegnon proved to be a huge disappointment in the first third of the season, struggling for fitness and form and at times.
And it was only in the final third of last season that fans really began to see the best of the African, the front-man scoring four goals in an eight game burst to help steer Sunderland to safety.
There’s no doubt that Sessegnon’s capacity for match-turning brilliance would be an asset to any club.
But there’s also no hiding the fact he has struggled for consistency – both O’Neill and his successor Paulo Di Canio pointed out that a player of his ability should be scoring more goals.
And with Sunderland undergoing a wholesale squad revamp this summer, Sessegnon is no longer regarded as untouchable.
Very few players are though at the Stadium of Light right now.
The club were not looking to offload Simon Mignolet but with the keeper stalling on a new contract and Liverpool prepared to pay big money for the star stopper, they agreed to do a deal.
The same approach would apply to Sessegnon, whose agent has appeared more than ready to entertain offers for the player over the last two summers.
And with question marks existing over the striker’s commitment to Sunderland’s cause, the Black Cats will not dismiss out of hand any offers they receive.
Ex-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce paid £6m for the Paris St Germain attacker in 2011 and the club would want at least that much to part with a player who is a match-winner on his day.
Although Sessegnon has scored only 17 Premier League goals in 83 starts for the Wearsiders, he has provided numerous assists and his pace, movement and invention have benefited Sunderland on umpteen occasions.
But should Sessegnon want to go and a fee be submitted which is acceptable, owner Ellis Short will have no qualms about letting him leave, as Paolo Di Canio continues to oversee a revolution in the composition of Sunderland’s squad.
Sessegnon has been linked with a potential £8m to Marseille, with the player and his family said to be keen to return to France.
But in the last few days there has been talk of him moving too the Chinese Super League. Two clubs were said to be interested, Tianjin Teda and Shanghai Shenhua.
But with Shenhua apparently deciding to drop their interest, the field is clear for Teda to firm up their supposed interest.
There has been no confirmation of any concrete offer for the striker from Asia. But if Sessegnon did move there, it would inevitably draw comparisons with fellow African Asamoah Gyan’s departure from the Stadium of Light in favour of a cash-laden move to Al Ain in the Emirates.
A move back to France could be portrayed as happening for family reasons but a flight to Asia would fuel accusations of him being a footballing mercenary.