Sunderland have had one of the most well-documented falls from grace in recent years, with their slump from the Premier League to League One made much more prominent due to their huge status, the pace at which they were falling and a rather popular Netflix documentary detailing it.
Before their initial relegation from the top-flight however, plenty of heroes were made for helping in the fight to avoid the drop. Jermaine Defoe is the main character who emerged, but Yann M’Vila is another who quickly became a fan favourite.
Supporters of the club would certainly not mind the return of the combative French midfielder, who spent just one season on loan at the Stadium of Light.
He came in during the 2016/17 season, the year before they would finally succumb to the drop, and play 37 times for the Black Cats in the league.
Across the season, he made 2.3 interceptions per game, as well as 2.7 tackles and 3.0 clearances. Combined with a solid 80% pass accuracy, his all-around ability to hold down a midfield would serve Tony Mowbray’s current side well.
Especially considering the amount of work the two in midfield have to get through to ensure protection for the back three, M’Vila could surely execute this to perfection.
Indeed, his numbers from that campaign better anyone in the current Black Cats side, something made even more impressive by the fact he achieved them in the top-flight. Only Luke O’Nien can match him for interceptions while he is streets ahead in terms of tackles. Meanwhile, Danny Batth is the only one who can usurp him for clearances with 3.1 per match.
What makes him so beloved on Wearside was how quickly he seemed to fall in love with the club, as the season following his 2015 loan move for Dick Advocaat, he was incredibly keen on a reunion.
Sunderland instead opted for Didier Ndong, which ended terribly as one would imagine when snubbing a cult hero for his services.
Ola Toivonen, who played for the club around this relegation period, backed the 32-year-old to make the difference for his club at the time. He said: “He’s a quality player.
“If you see all the clubs he’s been to you see he’s a quality player who can bring a lot to the team. Yann was playing really well there in the middle. We won the ball and the three up front was just running.”
He certainly did make the difference, and things could have been so different had he got his romantic return. A return now of him in his prime would certainly aid their promotion dreams.