Why Jeremain Lens failed to live up to his promise at Sunderland
Jeremain Lens arrived on Wearside last summer with a big price tag and big expectations.
He left just over a year later with a parting shot to Sunderland claiming they “would just love to get rid of me”.
But where did it all go wrong and should Sunderland fans mourn the departure of the 28-year-old Dutch winger, who will spend the season on loan at Turkish side Fenerbahce.
Lens is reunited with former Black Cats boss Dick Advocaat in Turkey, the fourth time the pair have worked together.
Advocaat brought him to the club last summer in an initial £8million deal, which had the possibility of rising to £13m depending on add-ons.
Money well spent? No.
His talent was never in question.
But his attitude, workrate and application was.
In the Premier League, you need to have the talent and the workrate to be a success, very few players manage it with only one or the other.
Lens got his Sunderland career off to a reasonable start, scoring the equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park and scoring in the 2-2 draw with West Ham at the Stadium of Light – Advocaat’s last game in charge.
But his moments of brilliance were too few and far between.
Before Advocaat resigned last October, he had raised concerns about Lens’ inability to offer a helping hand defensively and that was immediately identified as a big issue by Sam Allardyce.
He earned a recall to the starting fold last January in a number 10 role.
But following the signing of Bordeaux winger Wahbi Khazri, Lens struggled to even get a spot on the bench – although he did spend a month on the sidelines with a hernia.
Had Allardyce remained in charge, Lens would almost certainly have been departing Wearside anyway this summer.
Instead he had a new manager to impress.
But Lens failed to shine on the pre-season tour of France and then Austria, with David Moyes instead opting to give youth a chance.
Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch were favoured for the opening Premier League match at Manchester City, with Lens not even making it off the bench.
In fairness to him, he did make a positive impact from the bench against Middlesbrough in the Wear-Tees derby defeat, helping spark Sunderland into life.
And he provided the cross that led to Jermain Defoe winning and then converting a penalty in the draw with Southampton.
But tellingly, Lens didn’t earn a single start under Moyes despite the mounting injury problems and limited options available.
Moyes wants players in his side who will provide energy and workrate for the full 90 minutes.
Ultimately the Dutch winger – who still has three years left to run on a lucrative deal – was a luxury Sunderland couldn’t afford.
Perhaps another case of the right player, wrong time?
The Turkish outfit have an option to buy Lens next summer but he is set to return to England far sooner.
In October, his new club face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Europa League.
It would be a major surprise to see him back at the Stadium of Light next summer.