IT WAS two in, one out, last night as Sunderland finalised moves for Fabio Borini and Andrea Dossena, while Stephane Sessegnon brought an end to his two-and-a-half year stint at the Stadium of Light.
The Echo’s Chris Young examines Sunderland’s deadline day business after a window which has seen 14 new players brought to Wearside.
PERHAPS it was time to sever the special relationship.
The love-in between Wearside’s blend of Messi and Pele had just begun to turn sour.
Stephane Sessegnon’s struggles during the opening two games of the season had sparked much debate over whether the moment had come for Sunderland to cash in on the mercurially-talented Benin international.
Given Sessegnon’s drain on the Sunderland wage bill and a healthy £6million fee recouped for a player who has turned 29, it’s a deal which makes monetary sense, particularly in the era of Financial Fair Play.
The restrictions on wages – which limits clubs to using just £4m of the new TV deal on salaries – has been a problem which Sunderland have been struggling to overcome for weeks, particularly with the Black Cats unable to shift the likes of Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole.
Plus, there is the need to simply balance the books after all of the agent fees, signing-on fees and transfer fees that have set back Sunderland more than £30m this summer.
But, however frustrating this maverick has been over the last year or so, Sunderland are effectively swapping a frontman boasting the ability to torment the best of Premier League defenders, for one whose potential is yet to be realised.
What’s just as concerning, is that Sunderland have sold Sessegnon (pictured above) to one of their potential rivals in the dogfight in the bottom half of the top flight table.
Certainly, it would have been more palatable if Sessegnon had moved to the Middle East.
But money talks, and with Qatar side El Jaish not prepared to stump up the cash for Sessegnon, West Brom’s late move was appealing.
Is the loss of Sessegnon such a blow?
Well, given a fair wind, Sessegnon was unlikely to be one of Di Canio’s first-choice strikers, particularly after he was charged with drink-driving last week while Sunderland were progressing in the Capital One Cup.
Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore are seen by Di Canio as his ideal front pair, with both boasting the necessary scoring records.
Given Sessegnon is one of those players that a team needs to be built around too, it is not necessarily prudent to keep him on such a lofty salary.
But Sunderland’s depth – or lack of it – was exposed by the struggles of Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Fabio Borini will move ahead of the pair in the pecking order and will have to be used prominently over the course of the campaign.
But that puts a weight on the Italian’s shoulders. Had Sessegnon and Borini been back-up to Fletcher and Altidore, then Sunderland’s attacking ranks would have looked far healthier.
Such a scenario was probably not financially viable, but Borini will have to show more than pure potential this season if Sunderland’s deadline day striker business is to pay off.
Certainly, Borini is very highly-rated in his homeland and Brendan Rodgers thought so too after shelling out £10.5million last summer.
But the 22-year-old started just five Premier League games for Liverpool – albeit in a season hampered by injury – with his only goal coming in April’s 6-0 rout at St James’s Park.
A season-long stint at Sunderland will at least give Borini a chance to shine – particularly in a World Cup year – rather than being limited to a bit-part role behind Liverpool’s newly-assembled attacking riches.
And think back two years to when Sunderland signed Danny Welbeck on loan. There was a striker who had struggled to make an impression during a stint in the humble surroundings of Preston.
Like Welbeck, if Borini does prosper, it brings its own problems, with the frontman likely to return to Anfield next summer and Sunderland are forced to begin the search for an addition up top all over again.
But the fact that Sunderland’s deadline day business was limited to a loan and what is effectively a free transfer, showed how little room the club had left to manoeuvre financially.
Andrea Dossena fitted into that mould, as Sunderland finally brought in a specialist left-back after a summer of frustration which saw moves for their two principle targets Benjamin Mendy and Lucas Orban fall through.
The arrival of Dossena was perhaps an underwhelming one for supporters last night after the 31-year-old’s failure to make the grade during two years at Liverpool.
But the Napoli man is an experienced head, in the same manner that Wayne Bridge was in the second half of the 2011-12 campaign.
Will Dossena be a first-choice left-back? Not necessarily.
Di Canio likes Jack Colback at full-back and he has been one of the more consistent performers during the opening few games.
It may be that Dossena provides nothing more than cover in Sunderland’s problem position, but at least he’s a specialist in that role, rather than having to reshuffle two or three players.
Did Sunderland require more than just two signings?
As the Echo reported yesterday, it always looked unlikely, given the precarious balancing act with the wage restrictions.
Sunderland had expressed an interest in signing Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah on loan, but the capture of Borini and Ki Sung-Yeung ensured Sunderland had reached their limits of domestic loans.
The improvement needed in Sunderland’s engine room will rest with Ki, in the hope that the South Korean can rediscover the form he showed at Celtic which persuaded Swansea to shell out £6million last summer.
It’s a gamble from Sunderland to stake their hopes on Ki, given he had dropped to fifth in Swansea’s midfield pecking order this season.
Likewise, Borini is equally a spin of the roulette wheel on the basis of his impact for Liverpool.
By the time the transfer window re-opens in January, we will know whether it has paid off.