They say good things come to those who wait.
In January, Sunderland had to wait, but, at the third time of asking, they finally secured the signing of Lamine Kone from French side Lorient for £5million.
And what a revelation the 27-year-old centre-back has proved to be during his short spell on Wearside.
The January transfer window is a gamble for clubs, managers and players alike – with new signings needed to hit the ground running but with no guarantees they will.
Sunderland struck gold with Kone, the Ivory Coast international quickly finding his feet in the Premier League and striking up a formidable partnership with Younes Kaboul.
Kaboul told the Echo last week that he wasn’t surprised there is such interest in Kone.
Sunderland’s season could have been very different had they not managed to sign Kone for what has proved to be a bargain.
Eventually then boss Sam Allardyce – who had tracked him at West Ham United too – got his man.
And athletic Kone thrived with the pace and power of English football.
The crowd favourite – who has adopted the popular #TeamKone on Twitter – helped Sunderland keep three clean sheets in the closing weeks of the campaign on their way to Premier League survival.
Interest in him was inevitable.
Champions Leicester City and David Moyes’s former club Everton want him, with reports that the Toffees could make an offer upwards of £18million for his services.
Sunderland, reported to have offered Kone a new bumper contract, must do everything they can to keep hold of him.
The club was quick to offer striker Jermain Defoe a new deal after his goalscoring exploits last season.
Kone must be the next player’s contract to be improved – it would prove one of the signings of the summer.
Everton boss Ronald Koeman has identified Kone as a replacement for Manchester City-target John Stones.
The reported figure for Stones is around the £50million mark. An incredible sum.
Just as a comparison, stats from Opta show Kone won more effective headed clearances (4.27), more defensive duels won (5.67) and more aerial duels (3.27) per game last season than Stones did.
So, what price is Kone really worth?
What price would it take for Sunderland to even consider accepting a bid?
Upwards of £20million?
With the astronomical sums being spent this summer – as a result of the new television deal – it is very much a seller’s market.
Sunderland don’t need to sell and are in a strong position, with Kone having four years remaining on his deal.
If Everton or Leicester, though, were to come back with a HUGE offer then Sunderland would have to seriously consider it, especially if that cash could be reinvested in a squad lacking depth.
Moyes has not ruled out banking big bucks from one of Sunderland’s key players in future, if that money can be used to strengthen the side.
“I would never say that it won’t happen,” said Moyes.
“But I want to keep the best players and build a team.
“The more important thing is us bringing players in and bringing in players who can get us away from the wrong end of the league.”
Sunderland clearly have a real asset on their hands and it would take a substantial fee to persuade Sunderland to part company with Kone.
The signing of ex-Chelsea centre-back Papy Djilobodji for £8million is a welcome addition, with the first signing bringing extra competition to the defenders already on board.
But Djilobodji is unproven at Premier League level.
Kone, meanwhile, has proven he has what it takes and to sell him would send out all the wrong messages.
The club must keep the spine of Vito Mannone, Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Defoe together if they are to drag themselves away from the annual relegation battle.
End the uncertainty by tying Kone down to a new contract.