Former Sunderland loanee Adnan Januzaj is a classic case of ‘what if?’ not only for the Mackems but also for the player himself.
What if David Moyes had extracted more from the player’s game during the 2016/17 season? That campaign was a torrid one for Sunderland, a term that was marred by their relegation from the Premier League.
The Black Cats had spent ten years dining at the top table in English football but Moyes was unable to steer them to safety.
Januzaj was a player who could have benefited their cause. He signed on loan from Manchester United after a season where’d been in and around their first term. He also joined on a temporary basis after a short stint on loan at Borussia Dortmund.
On paper, the Belgium international should have done a lot more at the Stadium of Light.
He departed after Sunderland’s relegation with just one goal and three assists to his name in 28 appearances. Evidently, the young talent wasn’t living up to the hype.
Januzaj was sent off within a matter of weeks of being at the club and things didn’t get much better for him.
Speaking about the dynamic forward in January 2017, Moyes said: “I’m quite tough on Adnan.”
He then added: “He’s got individual ability but at the moment I’ve not seen him really hit the form which I’d love him to have done.”
Sunderland supporters rarely saw the best from a man that was valued at £6.3m when he was in the north-east as he departed with a dismal legacy.
Things never worked out for Januzaj once he returned to Manchester United but he is now thriving in Spain and excelling in Europe for Real Sociedad.
In 2019, his transfer value had increased by £7.2m to a total of £13.5m and it was clear to see why. The 26-year-old scored eight times and picked up four assists throughout 2019/20 and he has impressed this term as well.
He has helped steer Sociedad to fifth in the Spanish top-flight and to the later stages of the Europa League. In that competition, the creative attacker has managed a mighty 4.1 dribbles per game and 1.7 key passes a match.
For context, only two players in the entire competition have managed more successful take-ons this season.
It’s hardly a surprise, therefore, that he’s earned plaudits.
After registering two key passes and three dribbles against Man United in the last 16 of the Europa League back in February, Paul Scholes commented: “I never understood why it didn’t work out for him because he had such talent, but it didn’t.
“He’s gone on to good things and tonight he’s been excellent. I knew this kid had ability and he’s showing it.”
It’s a shame, therefore, that he wasn’t able to harness similar qualities at Sunderland. On his day, he is an enthralling watch. Regrettably, that was never really seen under Moyes.