Didier Ndong has revealed he turned down bigger offers from elsewhere to achieve his Premier League dream with Sunderland.
And he insists he doesn’t feel the pressure of the club record £13.6million fee that Sunderland splashed out on him.
The 22-year-old Gabon international has quickly established himself as a key player under manager David Moyes and is loving life in the English top flight.
Sunderland were the first Premier League club to make a move for Ndong.
He wants to repay that belief in him and is adamant there is no added weight on his shoulders because of the size of the fee involved.
“I don’t think the money is an issue. I don’t think it adds pressure,” Ndong told the Echo. “It was there, and Sunderland obviously had to pay a price for the transfer, but the most important thing is that I am here now, playing, and enjoying what I do.
“I am loving being in the Premier League.
“Sunderland were the first club to ask me to move to the Premier League, and that meant a lot to me.
“I got higher offers, but they were not to play in the Premier League, and I really wanted to come here.
“I always thought it would be somewhere where I could feel at home,” added Ndong, who joined the Black Cats on deadline day from Ligue 1 side Lorient.
Playing in the Premier League has always been a dream of his.
And he doesn’t hesitate in his assessment that the top flight in this country doesn’t compare with other leagues in the world.
“It’s always been a big ambition of mine to play here,” added Ndong, who is set to miss a chunk of the season in the new year when he competes in the Africa Cup of Nations.
“It’s always been something I have worked towards, and I have worked really hard to make this happen.
“I am especially pleased to be playing in the Premier League this year because I think is the best league that is going at the moment.
“There are so many good managers and good players, and it is really raising the bar.”
Ndong burst onto the scene at Sunderland with a series of energetic displays in the heart of midfield.
But as Moyes alluded to recently, there have been periods where his form has dipped.
In recent weeks, though, Ndong’s form – in line with Sunderland generally – has been on an upward curve and he feels he is at his best when given licence to roam more freely.
“I think I am at my best the way that I played against Leicester, and also against Tottenham and Liverpool,” added Ndong.
“That is my best position. You never know who you are going to play against, and the manager has to make changes accordingly, but I definitely think my best position is playing in a midfield two with another player behind me.
“That gives me the freedom and the ability to do what I want to do.”