It might have been Steve Bruce who shelled out £6m to bring him to Wearside in January 2011, but it took the arrival of Martin O’Neill, nearly a year later, to really spark Stephane Sessegnon into life in a Sunderland shirt.
The Benin international finally managed to turn glimpses of class into consistent match-winning performances with the arrival of O’Neill and the Irishman’s favoured counter-attacking system.
Along with the raw pace of James McClean, Sessegnon thrived on O’Neill’s methods of catching teams out on the break, and the man bought from PSG was duly voted Sunderland’s Player of Year last season.
However with such displays comes unwanted attention, and while the new boss has managed to tie McClean down to a new contract, he knows that with the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and champions Man City said to be preparing bids for the classy forward – who has played on the wing, in a withdrawn ‘number 10’ role and also on his own up top – keeping hold of the African is going to be tougher.
But according to reports this morning, a move to City may come with a veritable sweetener for the Black Cats, with Roberto Mancini apparently happy to offer winger Adam Johnson in return – a player much admired by both fans and club personnel alike on Wearside.
O’Neill knows that owner Ellis Short is not prepared to pump in the cash afforded to the Irishman’s predecessors in the past and will be expected to work the transfer market smartly this summer should he want to make significant changes at the club.
So while he’ll be doing his best to keep a player so integral to his Sunderland blueprint, a player-plus-cash exchange may well be the sort of deal that finally persuades him to let the silky-skilled forward go.