SUNDERLAND reluctantly decided to let Darren Bent leave the club yesterday after the player submitted his second written transfer request inside six months.
It’s possible that chairman Niall Quinn and chief executive Steve Walton could have sat down with the Black Cats’ star striker this week and looked at improving his wages in a bid to keep him at the club.
But having already gone down that route in the summer, when Turkish giants Fenerbache were circling, the club’s leaders decided that this time they would choose to cash in on a player who was clearly happy to leave if the price was right.
Sunderland fans were stunned yesterday afternoon when news emerged that Bent had slapped in a transfer request and was interested in Gerrard Houllier’s bid to take him to Villa Park.
But it is not the first time that Bent has asked to leave and it was a close run thing keeping him at the Stadium of Light last summer.
Sunderland fought a tricky battle to hold on to their prize asset at a time when they were most vulnerable and for several days while the club were at their training camp in Portugal.
The Echo was aware at the time of how delicate the situation was and told readers not to dismiss what appeared to be a far-fetched story of the Turk’s confident bid of signing the striker, out of hand.
But things were closer to happening than many realised, with the super-rich Turkish club scouring Europe for its top strikers.
The money being offered to Bent was colossal and a written transfer request was submitted.
Sunderland might have been tempted, with Fenerbahce offering well in excess of the record transfer fee the Black Cats had paid Spurs a year previously.
But Steve Bruce was absolutely desperate to hang on to his goal-scoring talisman – especially as moves were in the offing for Kenwyne Jones’s sale.
On the quiet, and for a few days, Sunderland were facing the very real prospect of losing BOTH Bent and Jones with the season only weeks away from starting.
But in the end the Black Cats were able to convince Bent to stay.
Ironically, it was Fenerbahce who queered the deal Sunderland were hoping to broker for Rennes striker Asasmoah Gyan.
The Wearsiders were well down the line of getting the Ghana striker for substantially less than the £13m they eventually paid to land him.
But with that deal getting close to completion, Fenerbahce also announced their own interest in the player and a potential mega-bucks fee and wages offer.
That was enough to put the move to Sunderland on hold and in the weeks that followed the striker’s asking price went up.