3 players set to leave Sunderland – and where they might end up

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Sunderland’s bleak Premier League campaign ended in relegation last weekend as Josh King’s late winner for Bournemouth confirmed the Black Cats will be playing in the Championship next season.

Having spent 816 days in the relegation zone in the last 10 years up to that point – far more than any other club – Sunderland’s recent relegation typifies a decade of disappointment and disquiet.

SEE ALSO: Sunderland relegated: 4 talking points from a nightmare season as Black Cats relegation confirmed

Unsurprisingly, those with greater ambitions than playing in the Championship will look to leave in the summer, and with a myriad of players in demand by other clubs and out of contract come the end of the season, which three players are most likely to leave the north-east in the upcoming transfer window?

Jermain Defoe

The apparently ageless striker (who is actually 34) comprised a modicum of bright spots for Sunderland this season. Jermain Defoe’s impressive form, evidenced by 15 goals and 2 assists, warranted a surprise England call-up from Gareth Southgate having last played for the Three Lions in 2013.

Defoe’s exit, however, seems imminent if he wishes to maintain his place in the England squad. Any international ambitions surely necessitate Premier League football. Considering Defoe has a break clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club for free if relegated, it is more of a question of where, rather than when the striker will go.

According to some media reports, Defoe is destined to join Bournemouth in the summer as part of a recruitment plan that aims to complement their crop of young talent with experience.

Other interesting possibilities include a reunion with Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace, or a return to West Ham. No Hammers player has reached double digits for goals scored this season, and a prolific Defoe could enhance their attack.

We’ll have to wait and see, but one would expect that there will be no shortage of clubs interested in his services.

Likely destination: Bournemouth

Jordan Pickford

The 23-year-old goalkeeper, like Defoe, has been one of few positives for a languishing Sunderland side.

Jordan Pickford was nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year following impressive performances in goal this season. Out of the 39 goalkeepers who have participated in a Premier League match in the 2016/17 campaign, the Englishman is second in saves made having amassed 120 in just 26 games played.

Notably, Pickford was called up to the England squad last October to replace an injured Tom Heaton for a World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. More pertinent to the keeper’s future, however, Pickford has reportedly been scouted by Arsenal for over a month. Other clubs are believed to be interested too, as some of the top flight’s squads look to find a long-term solution to their goalkeeper problem.

There have been doubts over Petr Cech’s future at Arsenal, for example. He has only 10 clean sheets this campaign in comparison to Hugo Lloris’s 15, Thibaut Courtois’s 14, and David De Gea’s 14.

Claudio Bravo’s form for Manchester City has been suspect, and Joel Robles and Maarten Stekelenburg have shared goalkeeping responsibilities for Everton with neither of them showing signs of becoming a permanent fixture.

As such, interest in Pickford is certainly high. If the youngster has any aspirations to develop into a world-class keeper then playing in the Premier League is undoubtedly a must.

Likely destination: Everton

Jan Kirchhoff

Bought from Bayern Munich in January 2016 for an undisclosed fee, the defensive midfielder is out of contract in the summer.

The German regularly featured in Sam Allardyce’s starting eleven last season and won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award for April under the tutelage of Big Sam, but recent injuries have hampered Jan Kirchhoff.

Standing at 195cm, Kirchhoff has only started five times for the Black Cats this season and hasn’t played since tearing a cartilage in his knee against Chelsea just before Christmas.

Despite the injury setback, Kirchhoff has proved to be very useful as a defensive-minded midfielder adept at both tackling and winning aerial battles. The Black Cats lost only four games after his arrival last season, and a run of one defeat in ten which kept them in the top flight was impossible without a resolute rearguard. Kirchhoff was certainly part of that.

So, which sides could benefit from Kirchhoff’s tackling and aerial prowess? Rumours are that Turkish outfit Galatasary are looking to replace 34-year-old Nigel de Jong with a younger model. German side Hamburger SV were also allegedly interested before Kirchhoff injured his knee.

If Kirchhoff can get back to full fitness and rediscover the form that was recognised during Sunderland’s great escape then the former Bayern man would certainly be a useful acquisition.

Likely destination: Galatasaray

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Words: Eliot Eagle | Main image credit: Walt Jabsco via Flickr.

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