Sunderland defender Lamine Kone claims he's 'worth more than League One' and 'fans turned their backs'
Sunderland defender Lamine Kone believes he's 'worth more than League One' and that 'fans turned their backs' on the side last season.
The 29-year-old centre-back remains contracted to the Black Cats but hasn't played a competitive game for the Wearsiders since April.
Kone secured a season-long loan move to French side Strasbourg back in August and has impressed in Ligue 1 this term.
And the Ivory Coast international, who signed for Sunderland in January 2016, has opened up on his time at the Stadium of Light.
During an interview with francefootball.fr, Kone was asked to rate his time at Sunderland out of 10:
"I will say six," replied the defender.
"It started very well when I arrived from Lorient. I lived four months on fire: we were last, before staying up. I then played all the next season, despite the descent into the Championship. But the second downhill in the third division spoils everything...
"Two consecutive relegations is rare for a footballer or a club. So hard to digest that. The damage is done. It’s in the past. But I do not regret this passage, even if it ended badly."
Kone stayed at Sunderland following their relegation from the Premier League under David Moyes in 2017.
He made 24 appearances in the Championship last campaign and insists he remained motivated despite the club's dramatic plight.
"To be relegated to the Championship was already very tense, even if we deserved to be relegated," added Kone.
"At the level of the fans and the city, it is a mythical club which had quite a lot of time in the Premier League. They have a story.
"The descent into League One was that of too much. The fans turned their backs on us. I understand them. Maybe the leaders could also have made better choices. The responsibility is shared between the players and the leaders. In terms of morale, although I continued to be motivated to practice, it was not the best."
Kone was a key player for the Black Cats as they escaped from relegation under Sam Allardyce in 2016.
The defender's performances led to speculation about his future, and Kone has previously claimed Everton made three bids for him.
After playing in the top divisions in England and France, Kone believes a step down to League One would have been too much.
"Yes, of course. Honestly, I’m worth more than League One. It would have been a regression," said Kone.
"I had the opportunity that several clubs come to me. A lot of things made it so I chose Strasbourg: the speech of the coach, the atmosphere of the stadium, I knew that it played football here, the city is nice. There was everything."