Former Sunderland Director of Football De Fanti’s signings under the microscope

Roberto De Fanti.
Roberto De Fanti.
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ROBERTO De Fanti’s ill-starred 10-month spell as director of football at Sunderland was ended by chairman Ellis Short yesterday.

The Italian was an unknown figure to fans, despite his prominent position at the club, and his departure from the club will go unmourned by the overwhelming majority of fans in the wake of a season of struggle blamed largely on the only transfer window over which the former football agent presided.

Last summer’s transfer window saw 14 signings arrive and De Fanti was still in position when Marco Alonso arrived at the start of the current window.

But few have really made the grade, while proven players like Stephane Sessegnon and Simon Mignolet departed.

The failure of the new signings to swiftly sparkle or gel, was largely the reason why Paolo Di Canio became the first Premier League manager to be sacked back in December.

But will history look too unkindly on the players who arrived last summer? Graeme Anderson ponders the impact of last summer’s arrivals, looking at the hits, misses and maybe’s De Fanti oversaw.


VITO MANNONE – Late to the party, the ex-Arsenal goalkeeper only got his chance due to injury to Keiren Westwood’s injury in November but the Italian has been ‘Mignolet-esque’ in form and a key part of Sunderland’s survival.

KI SUNG-YUENG – Paolo Di Canio wanted a midfielder in the Tom Huddlestone mould. He got Ki instead. It did not look great business when Sunderland opted to bring in Swansea’s fifth-choice midfielder but the South Korean is a contender for the Black Cats’ Player of the Season.


JOZY ALTIDORE – The USA international striker was one of two big money buys the club made last summer – Emanuele Giaccherini the other – but has rarely impressed.

He has managed only one league goal in 19 Premier League appearances and worse than that, his hold-up play has not caught the eye. Appears to have managed the difficult achievement of having settled in and gone backwards.

CABRAL – The commanding midfielder for whom Alfred N’Diaye was allowed to depart on loan, Cabral was expected to supplant Lee Cattermole and the signs looked good when he impressed in pre-season and looked lively in the early stages of his debut against Fulham.

But he faded, never sparkled afterwards and in the occasional games he did play, never looked hungry. Headed off on loan to Genoa this month ranking as one of the major failures of De Fanti’s reign.

DAVID MOBERG KARLSSON – Some might say it is unfair and premature to write off the 19-year-old Swedish winger so soon. The ex-Gothenburg player also impressed in the pre-season win over Tottenham but has no made no impact whatsoever this season. A clear De Fanti signing, he is believed to be one of the players the club are looking to offload.

CHARALAMPOS MAVRIAS – The Panathinaikos winger, a Greek Under 21 international – joined the club as a real prospect but has yet to enhance it. Made little impact under Paolo Di Canio and has not played under Gus Poyet.

ANDREA DOSSENA – The left-back, a free transfer and once of Liverpool, was sent off for an awful challenge on Hull’s ex-Sunderland midfielder David Meyler in only his second game for the Black Cats.

Can be impressive going forward but also tends to struggle defensively and the 32-year-old looks like his most athletic days are behind him.

VALENTIN ROBERGE – At fault for the goal which condemned Sunderland tumbling to that opening day defeat to Fulham on the opening day of the Premier League season.

The centre half’s most positive contribution to date was in the attacking third during the closing stages of the draw at Cardiff last month but was tortured in that game defensively. Often looks as though he might switch off at any moment.

MODIBO DIAKITE – Like Roberge, a central half signed on a free transfer and one De Fanti and Co were determined to pursue despite the Lazio man’s poor injury record and lack of games in recent seasons.

The 26-year-old has looked useful against the bigger attacking units of the Premier League but his contribution, like Roberge’s has not been in the same class as the players ahead of him - Wes Brown and John O’Shea.

ONDREJ CELUSTKA – The Czech full-back is hard-working, willing and committed, making a couple of decent early displays following his loan switch from Trabzonspor. But since Phil Bardsley’s return to favour he has been unable to get past the established former Player of the Season.


FABIO BORINI – The accusation at Liverpool was that the 22-year-old striker was a lightweight. That looked the case too at Sunderland earlier this season but he has improved almost by the week recently and has scored three hugely significant goals – against Chelsea and Manchester United in the Capital One Cup and an unforgettable late winner against Newcastle in the Premier League.

EMANUELE GIACCHERINI – The midfielder arrived with a great pedigree – an Italian international from Serie A champions Juventus – and the club spent big money on him but he has only sparkled sporadically. Despite that though, his attitude seems to be spot on, he has scored three goals and Sunderland will have a player on their hands if Poyet can do for him what he has done for Adam Johnson.

EL-HADJI BA – The 20-year-old attacker, regarded as one for the future following his switch from Le Havre, made a successful first outing in a Sunderland shirt. He came off the bench to score a late goal in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat of Carlisle but he has hardly pulled up trees up to that point.

DUNCAN WATMORE – Sunderland’s first signing of last summer was already in the pipeline pre De Fanti but he and Di Canio had to sanction it. The 19-year-old striker, signed from Altrincham has excited in Kevin Ball’s Under 21 Development squad and caught the eye as a second-half substitute in this month’s Cup win over Carlisle.

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