MARTIN O’Neill hopes Stephane Sessegnon’s new contract will dampen speculation over his future after Sunderland didn’t receive a single bid for the Benin international this summer.
Sunderland received a major boost on the eve of transfer deadline day yesterday when reigning Player of the Season Sessegnon extended his Black Cats contract until the summer of 2015.
Sessegnon has been persistently linked with a move away from the Stadium of Light over the last 12 months, with the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and his former club Paris St Germain all keeping tabs on the 28-year-old.
But the talk never materialised into a concrete offer and after O’Neill held negotiations with Sessegnon’s agent last week, the forward committed himself to Sunderland just six days after the £22million double signing of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson.
O’Neill told the Echo: “I’m delighted that he’s signed. It’s really good news for us.
“We were always hoping that he would extend his contract.
“I’m sure there was plenty of interest, but nothing definitive ever came through to us so it wasn’t a case of battling off a major offer.
“You’re never sure though and if a contract helps get himself together, then that’s great.
“It’s as important keeping your best players as it is to bring them in.
“When he sees the likes of Johnson and Fletcher coming into the football club, that might have helped make his mind up a little bit.
“Having said that, it might not have a bearing at all because he keeps his thoughts to himself!”
Sessegnon, who will still need to get his work permit extended, has consistently reiterated his happiness at the Stadium of Light and told the Echo at the end of last season that he had “unfinished business” with Sunderland.
But the separation from his Paris-based family continued to spark speculation over his future, although there are hope they will now join him in the North East.
“I think his family are hoping to be put together again, which would be good,” said O’Neill.
“That will be very important for him.
“I think he is happier within himself now.”
O’Neill is confident Sessegnon can now reproduce the same standards as last season, as he gradually restores his match fitness after failing to appear in red and white during pre-season.
The Sunderland manager added: “On the field, other than a bit of match fitness which I felt he lacked against Morecambe and Arsenal, I don’t think it will take Sessegnon too long to get back to his very best.
“Hopefully he can be the player he was last season and I’m sure he will be.”