Manager David Moyes believes Lamine Kone is getting back to his best and has revealed he could be a future Sunderland captain.
With John O’Shea rested and Lee Cattermole currently injured, the 27-year-old was handed the captain’s armband for the EFL Cup defeat to Southampton.
The Ivory Coast international was a key figure in last season’s survival after arriving in a £5million deal from Lorient in January.
Everton lodged an £18million offer this summer, which then led to a statement being put out in Kone’s name claiming he wanted a move after Sunderland had failed to offer him a promised new deal – a claim rejected by the club.
Sunderland held onto him and he eventually agreed a new and improved contract to remain with the Black Cats until 2021.
When asked whether handing him the captain’s armband on Wednesday was a vote of confidence in him, Moyes said: “I think it was a way of saying that you might be an option going forward, this might be the situation.
“John O’Shea is a great captain here, the way he organises the dressing room and speaks to the players and does all of those things.
“But I think, in time, there will be something else. It is a consideration for me, with Lamine at the moment.
“Does it give him more responsibility and does his performance improve along with it?
“His English is good enough, he doesn’t speak it enough but sometimes that ownership of it can help him and maybe galvanise him.
“It is something to think about going forward.
“It probably gave him a little bit of confidence, to say we are over everything that happened, there you go, go and show what you can do.”
Kone’s form had dipped at the start of the season, with the Everton interest overshadowing the start of the campaign.
But he has impressed in the narrow 1-0 defeats to West Ham United and Southampton in midweek.
Moyes added: “Kone has played very well the last two games.
“He is beginning to look more like what people have seen before. That is a big positive for us. Papy [Djilobodji] played very well too at Southampton.”