On the eve of the 2016/17 Premier League season and another new era for Sunderland under David Moyes, defender Lamine Kone has confirmed a request to leave the club as speculation continues to mount over a summer transfer. The French-born Ivorian centre-back played a crucial role in securing yet another escape from relegation for the Black Cats last term after arriving from Lorient in January, with his excellent form alongside Younes Kaboul attracting admiring glances from the likes of Everton and Chelsea.
Ronald Koeman's need to reinforce a backline that had suffered badly under the guidance of Roberto Martinez was underlined by the £47.5m ($61.4m) sale of John Stones to Manchester City.
Having already completed a deal to sign Swansea City and Wales captain Ashley Williams, The Mail was one of the several sources to confirm that Everton, also vying for Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie, had tabled an additional offer for Kone worth £18m. It was further suggested elsewhere that the player had even travelled to Merseyside for talks on Tuesday (9 August).
The same publication has credited Chelsea with an interest in Kone as a potential alternative to Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli. Whether or not he is a serious target for Antonio Conte remains to be seen, although it now certainly looks inevitable that the disgruntled 27-year-old will be departing the Stadium of Light before the transfer window closes for business on 31 August.
"At the end of last season I was told by the club that I would be offered a new contract," he told Sky Sports News. "Following numerous phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, the latest of which took place today with David Moyes and [new chief executive] Martin Bain, no contract has been forthcoming.
"It is therefore with much regret that I can only assume that I do not figure in David Moyes' future plans. With that being the case it is with much sadness that I have asked the manager and the chief executive to be allowed to leave Sunderland Football Club. However, until that time I give my word that I will give my utmost in training and on the field."
Sunderland, who completed the double signing of young defensive duo Paddy McNair and Donald Love from Manchester United yesterday, have yet to comment on Kone's very public transfer request ahead of Moyes' first competitive game in charge away to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on Saturday evening. The club have reportedly been keeping tabs on Everton captain Phil Jagielka, Kara Mbodji of Anderlecht and Blackburn Rovers' Shane Duffy as part of a potential contingency plan. They also recruited Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea in a £8m deal last week.