Burnley boss Sean Dyche is not surprised to see Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe in demand as the January transfer window opens, despite his advancing years.
Although Defoe is 34, pensionable age for a centre forward in years gone by, the Black Cats have already fended off interest from West Ham and are expected to field further enquiries over the ex-England striker in the coming weeks.
Defoe has scored 11 times this season, making him the most prolific Englishman in the division.
Dyche’s first addition of the window is a month older than Defore, Joey Barton having re-signed on a free transfer, and he believes the parameters of what constitutes a veteran are changing.
Speaking ahead of the Clarets’ FA Cup third-round trip to the Stadium of Light tomorrow, when Barton can expect to make his second debut and Defoe will be anticipating a well-earned rest, Dyche said: “Strikers are hard to come by, they’re usually coveted and expensive, so it doesn’t surprise me. He’s a top-class player.
“If you look at some of the players signed in the Championship, let alone the Premier League, the fees paid for older players and the wages paid are massive.
“You want people who can do the job, and he’s shown he can still do it, so it’s no surprise people are looking at him.
“The days of players reaching a certain age and people thinking that was them done, that’s changed massively. With the dietary and training support, management support, that’s all changed.
“He’s a fantastic professional. I don’t know him, but, from what I’m told, he’s excellent in how he goes about it, how he looks after himself, and he’s being paid back for his professionalism as an individual with how he performs and his goals.”
Defoe appeared to call time on his days of top-level football when he signed for Major League Soccer franchise Toronto in 2014, but Dyche insists that nobody in the game believed the striker was finished.
“I don’t think anyone in football thought he was coming to the end of his career,” he said.
“If you look at what Sunderland allegedly spent to get him back, I don’t think they were thinking that either. When he arrived back, a lot of managers thought that was a good signing and so he has been.”
While MLS was once the destination of choice for players looking for a lucrative end to their career, the cash-rich Chinese Super League is the new temptation.
Burnley’s summer signing Steven Defour has been linked with a switch to the Far East, but Dyche is not expecting any movement on that front.
“I think players’ representatives can talk about many things, I don’t think it’s new his agent is talking about things, all agents do, I’ve no problem with any of it,” he said.
“Steven knows he’s in a good place now, he’s enjoying what goes on, the Premier League is a challenge for him.”