Don't bet against Jermain Defoe seeing out his new Sunderland contract
It wasn't just sceptical supporters who raised an eyebrow at the three-and-a-half year deal handed to Jermain Defoe when he made the return journey across the Atlantic.
Yes, Sunderland were swapping a proven goalscorer for a proven non-goalscorer, but this was a striker who had just turned 32 and spent the previous 12 months on the seniors tour of the MLS.
Gus Poyet was aghast that the club had given Defoe such a lengthy contract. Even then sporting director Lee Congerton suspected that the England international would be offloaded before the conclusion of that deal.
But just 18 months after arriving on Wearside in the much-maligned Congerton’s masterful swap for Jozy Altidore, Sunderland have committed themselves to another year of employment for Defoe.
He will be almost 37 by the time the new contract expires. There are hardly a glut of Premier League frontman operating at that stage of their careers.
Yet while Defoe’s contract extension came as something as a surprise last week, he has unquestionably deserved it.
It took five years, but Sunderland finally landed that natural finisher who could adequately replace Darren Bent’s goals. Those prophecies of the Black Cats’ doom if it hadn’t been for Defoe have not been over-played.
Defoe revels in Wearside’s adoration for him too.
Despite playing on the international and European stage, the emotion of finding the net in a red and white shirt still gets the better of the ex-Spurs frontman.
Rewarding Defoe’s Player of Year contribution is thus a cute move from Sam Allardyce (even if at the bare minimum, it prevents another transfer window of speculation over a move to Bournemouth).
Defoe loves the pressure of being the main man and the accompanying praise which comes with it. He likes to feel loved.
Even if he remains Sunderland’s first-choice striker next season, there is going to be added competition up front, with a new recruit almost certain to arrive this summer.
Sunderland’s move for West Ham’s Diafra Sakho is evidence that Allardyce wants to bring in a more orthodox targetman to complement the finishing prowess of Defoe.
As the remaining three years of his contract ebb away, Defoe may be confined to more of a bit-part role, but he will be far from content with such a remit at this stage of his career.
Even if he turns 34 in October, he has unquestionably proved his continued ability at this level after an emphatic statement of 15 league goals.
Unlike others in his profession, Defoe takes every step to prolong the longevity of his career – abstaining from the dreaded drink and consuming nutrition shakes instead.
The initiatives introduced by Allardyce have suited Defoe too.
He happily (well, as happy as you can be) subscribes to the ice bath regime designed to hasten the recovery of tired muscles.
Injuries, of course, are the biggest threat to Defoe at this stage, but he is a footballer who simply loves football, as evidenced by his recent participation in Soccer Aid.
If he remains on distant terms from the treatment table, there is no reason why Defoe cannot prolong the autumn of his career, along the lines of a Teddy Sheringham or Ryan Giggs.
Don’t bet against him seeing out the full three years of his remaining Sunderland contract.