As Alex Neil’s Sunderland side prepare for a potential pivotal League One final day clash with Morecambe on Saturday, the club’s supporters would be forgiven for having more pressing matters to attend to than concerning themselves with who they did or didn’t sign over the past decade or so.
That being said, had the Black Cats made smarter moves in the transfer market during their Premier League days. they may not have found themselves where they are at present, facing a fifth successive season in the third tier unless they can navigate their way out of the play-offs.
One notable missed opportunity of recent times was the club’s failure to secure the signing of current Paris Saint-Germain star Georginio Wijnaldum, with the midfielder having appeared close to a deal back in 2015 during Dick Advocaat’s stint in charge at the Stadium of Light.
As reports at the time revealed, Sunderland held concrete interest in the then-PSV Eindhoven skipper and even submitted an £11m offer for the player, with Advocaat keen to use his Dutch connections to tempt his compatriot into a move to Wearside.
The then 24-year-old opted against the move, though, with the club suffering the ignominy of seeing the Rotterdam-born playmaker instead choosing to join bitter rivals Newcastle United in a £14.4m deal.
Despite the Magpies’ eventual relegation at the end of his debut campaign, Wijnaldum more than showed his suitability to English football in what was a stellar season on an individual note as he netted 11 Premier League goals.
That form alerted the attention of Liverpool, who moved for him after just a solitary season at St James’ Park, with the all-action midfielder going on to claim Champions League and Premier League honours during his time at Anfield.
Such was the Dutchman’s impact at the Merseyside club prior to his 2021 departure, Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness suggested that the 5 foot 9 star had been the “driving force” for the Reds’ success under Jurgen Klopp in recent years, alongside Jordan Henderson and James Milner.
While the 31-year-old has somewhat struggled since his free transfer to PSG last summer – with just a 6.65 average match rating in Ligue 1 – the 86-cap international is still held in high regard. His Oranje colleague Ryan Babel insisted that the £19.8m-rated colossus has “lungs for days”, such is his intense work ethic.
As for Sunderland, the club are no longer anywhere close to signing a player of that calibre, with the Black Cats having found it immensely difficult to climb their way out of the lower divisions.
Had they managed to secure Wijnaldum’s services that summer – rather than ending up with the likes of Yann M’Vila and later Jan Kirchoff – who knows where they could be right now.