Sunderland youngster El-Hadji Ba will improve at Bastia

El-Hadji Ba
El-Hadji Ba

EL-HADJI Ba’s development would have been hampered by another year in a bit-part role, believes Gus Poyet.

Sunderland midfielder Ba joined French side Bastia in a season-long loan move last week, with the Ligue 1 outfit boasting the option to convert the deal into a permanent switch.

The 21-year-old made just three first-team appearances for Sunderland after arriving from Le Havre last summer, yet caught the eye during pre-season with clear signs of his progress.

Sunderland boss Poyet was reluctant to be drawn on whether Ba’s exit spelt the end of his career at the Stadium of Light.

But he says Ba is at the age where he needs to be playing first-team football after being predominantly limited to the Under-21 squad last season.

Poyet said: “I think the logic was always trying to get the possibility of him playing regular football.

“Last year, he went practically the whole year without playing.

“It’s a loan because he just wants to play.

“There are players at a certain age where they have one year without playing football and that could be enough for them (to damage their careers).”

Sunderland remain on the look-out for an additional central midfielder this summer, particularly as Alfred N’Diaye is expected to follow Ba in leaving before the end of the transfer window.

But while Ba’s departure may have left Sunderland short on back-up in the engine room, Poyet believes Bastia’s offer was too good to turn down.

Ba will be working under ex-Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele, in a team which finished mid-table in the French top flight last season.

“The opportunity is magnificent,” added Poyet.

“The timing was difficult with us because of the numbers we’ve got.

“But at the same time, it’s the right place for him as well.

“I hope he can play and learn from Claude Makelele, his manager, which will be fantastic.”