Playmaker Wahbi Khazri can be Sunderland’s Mezut Ozil and provide the creative spark that will lead the club away from the drop zone.
That’s the view of French football expert Andy Brassell after Khazri signed for the Black Cats in a £9million deal from Bordeaux.
The Tunisian star has been one of the stars of Ligue 1 this season, and boss Sam Allardyce swooped to bring him to Wearside in the hope that he will help fire Sunderland to safety.
Brassell believes that Sunderland could have landed a bargain and provide Allardyce’s team with an attacking threat they don’t have – and may even challenge Arsenal Ozil as the Premier League’s top assist-maker in the future.
He said: “Khazri’s not as skilful as Mezut Ozil but in terms of the amount of chances he creates, he could be Sunderland’s Ozil.
“The amount of assists he had at Bordeaux would have been a lot more if they had a proper striker.
“He’s two-footed and can play either central or on the flank but I think you’d be better playing him as a No 10.
“He’s not too much like anyone – build-wise, he’s similar to Remy Cabella but Cabella is more of a dribbler while Khazri likes to pass and move.”
Bordeaux were reluctant to let their talisman go, especially given they had just sold Henri Saivet to Newcastle for £4.5million.
But the riches on offer from Sunderland was too tempting to turn down.
“At the start of the transfer window, Bordeaux had to sell someone,” added Brassell. “They said they were letting Saivet go to Newcastle so they didn’t have to sell anyone else.
“But Premier League clubs, if they really want one of your players, they will get him.
“Bordeaux got an offer they couldn’t say no to. They had to say yes, and have been making back-up plans.
“If Khazri is as good as he can be then Sunderland have got a really decent deal for less than £10million. Bordeaux certainly didn’t want to sell him.
“He’s someone who is fit, and very skilful. He can provide that spark in midfield that Sunderland don’t have,
“He has pace and is quite quick for a playmaker, which will allow him to play on the counter-attack.
“And he will also take control of set-pieces in terms of either shooting or setting up players with his delivery.
“The amount of assists and chances he’s created must be up there with the most in Europe.
“Khazri isn’t yet 25 and has a lot of football left in him. He had a few consistency issues in the past but he’s developed that consistency now and is a good player.”
Khazri, who has scored six goals in 13 internationals for his country, has swapped life at Bordeaux – where they played in the Europa League this season – for a relegation scrap.
However, Brassell believes he has the character and temperament to not only cope with the pressure of playing at the Stadium of Light, but also to lead Sunderland to safety.
He added: “Bordeaux are a historic club with a lot of tradition and he has been able to deal with the expectation.
“He looked good coming through the ranks at Bastia, where he played alongside Florian Thauvin. While he’s played Europa League with Bordeaux, he also knows what it’s like at the bottom of the table with Bastia.
“He’s got a good personality and the ability to drag teams forward. He’s a strong character.”