SUNDERLAND’S two African players are facing very different futures on Wearside, with Martin O’Neill determined to hold on to star man Stephane Sessegnon but happy to let Ahmed Elmohamady miss the run-in, writes Graeme Anderson.There has been much speculation about the future of Sessegnon – a £6million signing from Paris St Germain who has dazzled with his skills at the Stadium of Light but is said to have problems with his family not wanting to settle on Wearside.
Several stories have appeared in recent weeks suggesting he might leave Sunderland in the summer and such rumours could become a flood once it becomes open season for the media during the transfer window.
But as far as O’Neill is concerned, he does not see the Benin international’s future as being an issue at the moment.
“He is playing brilliantly,” shrugged the Sunderland manager.
“I’ve read he’s unhappy the whole time, but he couldn’t be happier, believe it or not.
“I don’t think he can play like that if he’s unhappy. He’s in great form and I’m sure I won’t stop the speculation, no matter what I try.
“We want to keep him at the club because he’s been pretty brilliant and I really couldn’t say much more than that.
“I don’t want to come in here and tell you in April there’s not a problem, then have you say in September, ‘Oh, you did really well there’.”
While O’Neill will fight tooth and nail to hang on to Sessegnon, the same cannot be said of Elmohamady, who has barely featured under his management and has now been allowed to link up with Egypt, who have friendlies against Nigeria, Angola and Iraq over the course of the next week.
The manager has allowed the player to leave in order to improve his match fitness and Elmohamady welcomes the chance to be playing again after an extended spell spent warming the bench.
“It’s a great chance to play in games and get myself into the selected squad for the national team,” he said. “I’ve spoken with the manager and he welcomed the idea and gave me the permission to go and play some competitive games.”