Sunderland are yet to receive any enquiries for Lamine Kone ahead of the January transfer window opening – with the defender harbouring ambitions of a Premier League return.
Kone, out with a knee injury until mid-January, is at the centre of building transfer speculation.
Sunderland manager Chris Coleman has revealed that the club is yet to field any interest, but has questioned how much of a loss the centre back would be, given that he is yet to feature under him because of injury.
Kone handed in a transfer request in the summer of 2016 before later signing a new five-year deal, yet his long-term Sunderland future has always been shrouded in doubt.
It is no secret that the 28-year-old, one of the club’s highest earners, wants a return to the top flight following relegation – and his departure could help boost Coleman’s limited January transfer kitty.
Everton have been strongly linked, but ex-Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce recently distanced himself from a move for the ex-Lorient defender he signed for the Black Cats for £5million in January 2016.
Asked if there had been any enquiries, Coleman said: “No. Not had one phone call, nothing.
“Look, this is football and a lot of the time you’re the last to know anyway.
“Transfer windows are funny things. Things happen and you don’t see it coming. I know we have targets, but I can’t say this player will be leaving, or that one.
“Possibly, I don’t know.”
Should a bid come in and Kone move on, Coleman is unsure how big of a loss he would be.
The ex-Wales boss said: “We need to get better and, of course, we have transfer targets – we know who they are. Getting them here is another story.
“Equally, there will be one or two clubs looking at some of our players.
“The obvious one is Lamine Kone. He hasn’t played for a long time but will be linked with clubs.
“He has already stressed he wants to go back to the Premier League, the player himself.
“Maybe there will be players leaving, but is that going to hurt us? Because we haven’t had him anyway. It is about who is here and who we can add to what we’ve got.”
Coleman stressed that he hadn’t spoken specifically with Kone about his future.
Coleman added: “No, I am going off what was said before I arrived, that he sees himself somewhere else. Where that is, who knows.
“I can’t say to you ‘what if we can get Lamine Kone back’ because we haven’t had him anyway. I can’t say we are missing him – I’ve never had him.
“If he does go somewhere else – we have never been looking to sell – but if he does, I can’t say that is a loss to us as I have never had him in the first place.”
Ahead of today’s Championship game away to Nottingham Forest, Coleman’s priority is working with those players currently available.
Coleman said: “We came up short at Sheffield United (in Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat), but these boys train every day and don’t miss the games, good, bad or indifferent. I need to get the best out of them.
“Names of players who could be leaving are not playing for us anyway, haven’t been on the pitch for weeks or months.
“Most of the lads are playing every game – it is tough and hard but they are there.
“I can’t take my eye off them and they must know I am 100 per cent in their corner.”