GARY Bennett says that prospective signing Alfred N’Diaye sounds like exactly the sort of player the Sunderland squad needs.
And he says he has high hopes for the French Under 21 international, even though he believes it will take until the end of the season for the midfielder to fully acclimatise to the Premier League.
Sunderland and N’Diaye’s club, Turkish outfit Bursaspor, have agreed a fee in the region of £3m for the 6’2” tall midfield ball-winner.
And yesterday N’Diaye, now 22, said farewell to his team-mates ahead of a flight to England which he hopes will end with him signing for the Black Cats.
That would please Bennett, who believes that a powerful midfield presence is Sunderland’s top priority in this transfer window.
Today, the former Sunderland captain and now radio commentator, said: “If he’s as good as I’m sure Martin O’Neill hopes he will be, then he will make a big difference to our side because we’ve been lacking in this department.
“There are plenty of good things about this Sunderland team but height is one of the areas where we short in my opinion.
“I think that we have been crying out for a big, powerful ball-winning, ball-playing midfield in the mould of a Mohamed Diame.
“Sunderland were after Diame in the summer before he went to West Ham from Wigan on a free and N’Diaye sounds as though he’s exactly that sort of player – a big lad, well over six foot and strong too, someone who will give us that physical presence we’ve been lacking.
“He sounds like a Martin O’Neill sort of player – young, pacey, powerful and capable of really covering the ground.”
Bennett also believes that if N’Diaye does sign, he will improve the players around him.
He said: “I don’t want to put too much pressure on a young lad who hasn’t even joined yet and is bound to have a challenge in getting to grips with the Premier League if he does.
“But you don’t get too many poor players playing for the French Under 21s and if he is the player we hope he is, he will be able to enhance the game of players like Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean, Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole.
“He will help out those who do all the grafting, ball-winning work because he’ll be doing his fair share.
“But if he’s capable of carrying the ball forward up the park, he’s going to be a massive help to the likes of Adam Johnson.
“We all know what Johnson is all about but tracking back 30 yards to tackle in his own half, or receiving the ball on the half-way line, is not his game.
“He needs to be receiving the ball near the 18-yard box all the time and if N’Diaye fulfils the function in the squad that Sunderland want him to, then it could have a real impact on Johnson’s game in particular.”