The Uruguay international was signed from Liverpool in 2015 in a deal worth £2m, after spending the season on loan, but he would struggle for regular first-team minutes during his time at the Stadium of Light, making just 32 appearances for the Black Cats across two seasons.
He was loaned to Sporting Lisbon in January 2016 and made his move permanent in February 2017, joining in a deal worth around €5m (£4.3m) as the Mackems were later relegated that same year.
Coates has been a mainstay with the Portuguese Liga side in the five years since, making 297 appearances in all competitions, contributing 28 goals and 13 assists in that time.
Now 32, the centre-back boasts a huge amount of experience in European competition and was a regular again for Ruben Amorim’s side in the Champions League this season, making five appearances in the group stage.
While Sunderland fans perhaps won’t have taken too many opportunities to see how far their former defender has come since his Stadium of Light exit five years ago, the World Cup represents an ideal opportunity.
Coates has 47 caps to his name already and could be set for a regular starting spot in Uruguay’s defence in Qatar, as they prepare to face Portugal, South Korea and Ghana in Group H.
An injury suffered by fellow centre-back Ronald Araujo in the build-up to the World Cup also suggests that he could be a starter alongside Jose Gimenez in Diego Alonso’s defence, as the Barcelona man is unlikely to be fully fit.
After a brace in the Champions League last season, former Liverpool man Jamie Carragher labelled Coates as “big and powerful” on CBS Sports, and while Sunderland fans didn’t witness too much of that during his time in England, the Black Cats perhaps should have given him more of a chance.
Indeed, he has developed into a very solid defender.