SUNDERLAND'S successful pursuit of Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon is evidence of the club's growing reputation abroad, according to the first African player to sign for Steve Bruce.
John Mensah is extremely proud to have played his part in persuading Muntari to sign on loan from Inter Milan until the end of the season.
The £6m capture of Benin international Sessegnon is another feather in the Black Cats’ cap.
The double signing takes the number of African players on Wearside to five and Mensah – who is in contention to start against Chelsea tomorrow night after recovering from an ankle injury – is thrilled to see how far Sunderland have come since last season.
Bruce is still pondering whether to add another striker to his squad to compensate for the loss of Darren Bent, but he is relaxed about the situation and will only do anything if a bargain suddenly emerges before tonight’s 11pm deadline.
Mensah, who has also welcomed Sessegnon’s arrival on Wearside, said: “I had spoken to Sulley before he came here, I told him what Sunderland was like.
“We all know he (Muntari) is a good player, he helped Portsmouth to win the FA Cup and he had a really successful time.
“When he was at Inter Milan he won two league titles and the European Cup so he has fantastic ability. He is a big player.
“We have played many times for Ghana and he will improve the team.
“He could be very important for us.
“He is hard-working and he is different to the other midfielders.
“He is used to English football as well, so he should not need much time to adapt now he is back. I
believe he is going to be a very good player for us. He knows Sunderland are a big team and their reputation around the world is growing.
“I have told Sulley this, but he already knew how well we are doing.
“There are three Ghana players now at Sunderland. It makes me very proud and if we do well in the Premier League it will help other Ghana players as well.”
Mensah always felt Sunderland had the potential to grow into a genuine force in English football when he first signed on loan from Lyon in the summer of 2009.
However, he has still been impressed with the way the squad has developed under Bruce.
He added: “Sunderland are sixth in the table and people in Africa and Ghana are more aware of them. When I came here for the first time I knew Sunderland could be a good team.
“We have worked hard with the manager and you can see the improvements we have made.
“It is hard work which has got us where we are. It is not down to individuals, it is the team. A good team is one which works together and has a good squad.
“Everyone who is here does their best for the team and that makes me very happy to be a part of what is happening here.”
Mensah would love to turn his loan move into a permanent deal, but his cause is not being helped by another injury-ravaged campaign.
Although his hamstring and calf problems appear to have eased, the defender has played just nine games this season and has been struggling with an unrelated ankle injury for the last few weeks. He said: “I am fine at last. I had a slight problem last week, but I am OK.
“It does not get any easier, it has been particularly tough this year.
“I am here on loan and I have to play. The injuries have caused a lot of disruption.
“In terms of the games they want me to play, I think I’have to play 25, but I would like to play more than that.
“The most frustrating thing is the most recent one has been nothing to do with my back problem.
“The calf and the hamstring have been fine, it has been three months since I had any problems.
“I injured my ankle against Bolton and that has kept me out.
“It is even more frustrating because it is something different. I was supposed to be out for six weeks, but I have worked hard and I am in contention again.
“I would like the move to become permanent. Sunderland are a fantastic club with wonderful fans – the best I have ever known. I am very happy here and feel very lucky to be in this team.”
Meanwhile, Andy Reid last night became the latest casualty of Sunderland's transformation from relegation strugglers to European contenders when he signed for Blackpool.
One of Roy Keane's more successful signings, the Republic of Ireland international had fallen down the pecking order under Bruce.
Paraguay international Paulo Da Silva is set to sign for Real Zaragoza before the deadline this evening and David Healy has gone to Glasgow Rangers.