Sunderland latter days in the Premier League weren’t the happiest of times, but there were still one or two great escapes that occurred – especially under Sam Allardyce.
And one of the stars of the end of that 2015/16 season was Lamine Kone, who had only signed in January 2016 from Lorient.
The Black Cats paid the French club around £6 million for Kone’s signature, and he played all of the last 15 games of the season in a period where Sunderland lost just three times on their way to Premier League survival.
Kone netted twice in a 3-0 victory over Everton in May 2016, and his performances led to summer interest in the Ivorian, with the Toffees tabling a bid of around £16 million that was turned down by the Black Cats.
That proved to be a bad decision for Sunderland – Kone told David Moyes he wanted to leave the club before making a u-turn and signing a new long-term contract, but his performances never hit the heights of his first half-season on Wearside.
Sunderland were relegated to the Championship that next season with Kone as a regular and in the second tier Kone was one of the big earners that was expected to depart, however he stayed and played 24 times under Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman.
Kone’s last Sunderland game came on April 27, 2018 – but what has he been up to since then?
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Sunderland found a club to take on most of Kone’s salary in the summer of 2018 as he joined French club Strasbourg on a season-long loan, making 27 appearances for them in France’s Ligue 1.
His performances convinced the club to make the deal permanent and that’s exactly what they did in 2019 – and Sunderland wouldn’t have got anything close to the eight-figure offer they turned down from Everton three years prior.
Kone played 18 times for Strasbourg last season but in the current campaign he’s been a lot less of a regular starter and has only appeared 11 times in Ligue 1 – but has started the club’s last three games which suggests he is getting back to his best.
At the age of 32 now though, Kone has hit his peak and he won’t get any better – with the best few months of his life back in 2016 at the Stadium of Light behind him now.
Whilst he was initially a fan favourite for his performances at the start of his tenure, Kone’s relationship with the supporters soon soured and as Roker Report described in 2019, he was one of a number of players who ‘were a root cause for the cancerous issues infecting the club with their toxic negativity and honking attitudes.’