Jeremain Lens says Sunderland won the race for his signature by being first out of the blocks this summer.
Sunderland secured an £8million deal for winger Lens last month after sporting director Lee Congerton spent several weeks in tiresome negotiations with Ukraine outfit Dynamo Kiev before a fee was finally agreed for the Dutch international.
Up to now he (Dick Advocaat) has shown that he is trying to build a good team that can really mean something in this competition, rather than having to fight at the end of the season just to stay in the leagueJeremain Lens
Turkish outfit Besiktas had been among several clubs also interested in signing Lens – who will make his competitive Sunderland debut at Leicester City tomorrow (3pm kick-off) – yet the Black Cats were the one and only side to make a concrete bid for the 27-year-old.
And given that Lens had the chance to be reunited with his former PSV and AZ Alkmaar boss Dick Advocaat, Sunderland’s early move paid dividends for a player who looked a fans favourite in-the-making during the final two pre-season friendlies.
“I left quite early in the transfer window and, while I spoke with a lot of clubs that were interested, Sunderland was the only one whose interest was concrete at that time,” said Lens.
“I didn’t want to wait too long, so, after all those conversations I had with Dick and the other people at the club, I had a good feeling and that’s why I signed early.
“He (Advocaat) talked to me about the plans he had for the team and the club, and up to now he has shown that he is trying to build a good team that can really mean something in this competition, rather than having to fight at the end of the season just to stay in the league.
“So far, the plans are going well and I think he still wants to bring in some more new players.”
Midfielder Yann M’Vila became the latest of those fresh faces yesterday when he finalised his season-long loan switch from Rubin Kazan, although Sunderland missed out on a move for Lens’ fellow Dutchman Leroy Fer earlier this week when the QPR midfielder failed a medical.
Sunderland’s hope is that those summer investments – with another couple of signings likely to arrive before the end of the window – will end the cycle of relegation battles.
And after challenging for titles in both the Dutch and Ukraine leagues, Lens is not looking to be involved in the thick of a relegation battle.
“It is a long time since I played for a team that struggled in the league,” he added.
“But in this league anything can happen.
“A few years ago, Southampton were not doing as well as they have in the last couple of seasons, so there is a chance for us to surprise a few people too and reach as high a ranking as possible.
“We don’t want to be fighting just to stay in the league, I hope it will be more comfortable and we will be in the middle.”