Steed Malbranque: a luxury they could ill afford to keep?

Steed Malbranque’s switch to St Etienne last month ended a 10-year stay in English football, during which time he made a total of 336 Premier League appearances. After spending a decade in the UK it was quite a surprise to see Malbranque return to his native France and I would have thought the 31-year-old would have found a club willing to take him on in England. St Etienne have today announced that the club have terminated his contract by mutual consent, nothing to any family problems as had been previously been incorrectly reported.

After impressing at Lyon following his debut for the club in 1998, Malbranque secured a move to Fulham in 2001 and went on to make over 200 appearances for the west London club. Malbranque made the short journey to Tottenham in the summer of 2006, going on to make over 60 appearances at White Hart Lane and became a regular for Spurs under Juande Ramos but was often played out of position on the left flank and fell out of favour, before joining Sunderland in 2008.

Malbranque only moved to French outfit St Etienne at the start of last month after ending his three-year stay at the Stadium of Light. But after just one appearance as a substitute for Les Verts he is once again a free agent, would an English club be able to take a risk on the talented midfielder?

I can understand why Malbranque moved back to France as St Etienne is close to the former France U21 international’s family, while there is no doubt that the transfer also offered the chance of securing his long-term future with a two-year deal, as he was going into his final 12 months at the Stadium of Light where he was also top earner.

Malbranque was a fans favourite at Sunderland mostly due to the fact he is a fantastically gifted footballer and a real entertainer to watch. Maybe that was his problem, Steve Bruce doesn’t want to see his midfielder nut-megging an opponent, and he would rather see a committed player who is more clinical in front of goal. Something that Malbranque is not, with only one league goal to his name during his time in Wearside. Signed originally as a glamour signing in Roy Keane’s new look Sunderland squad his performances in recent years have been slowly in decline after a brilliant debut season.

Last season the Frenchman started 24 games for the side but actually only finished on the pitch in seven of them and his inability to finish a game is noticeable, something that Bruce would have remembered when he let him leave before the end of his contract. Sunderland could ill afford to keep a player with a tendency to tire late on and who had become less effective in recent years especially when such small decisions can result in so much.

In the increasingly physical Premier League, Malbranque has been muscled out. The luxury entertainer is a dying breed in the cut-throat world of English football and for that is a crying shame.