As this sad story demonstrates, a club-record fee does not ensure success.
When Sunderland signed Didier Ndong in 2016, they thought they were acquiring one of Europe’s finest up-and-coming midfield stars.

The Black Cats outbid a slew of other clubs on the continent to sign the Gabonese international for a club-record sum of £13.6 million.

Ndong went on to make 31 appearances for David Moyes’ side, although Sunderland struggled and finished the season bottom, having spent all but two weeks in the relegation zone.
Still, there was anticipation that Ndong could spur the Mackems to an instant return to the top flight of English football.

Friday is Didier Ndong's last chance to transfer out of Sunderland - 2019  Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers

No, not exactly. His final Championship appearance, which saw him sent off in a 4-0 loss to Cardiff, was also his 18th.

Ndong arranged a loan move to Premier League Watford, however he didn’t play for the Hornets and was soon back at the Stadium of Light.

The Gabonese were not pleased with this development, but his pay made it difficult for him to leave a club that was now in League One.

Ndong discovered a method to whip up a fan base that had already gone through the mill while stuck between a lucrative rock and a hard (lower-paying) place.

During a lavish trip to Morocco, the midfielder infuriated Sunderland fans by tweeting photographs of a hotel swimming pool on social media.

Ndong tried to avoid returning to the UK for as long as possible, fearing arrest for breach of contract.

Then, in September 2018, he was fired by Sunderland. Ndong eventually agreed to pay back €4 million in legal fees when he joined a new club, which turned out to be Guingamp.

They were demoted in Ndong’s first season with the French club.

This tale first published in the October 2023 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe now!

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