SUNDERLAND have been warned that transfer target El-Hadji Ba is a long way from being Premier League-ready by the 19-year-old’s current club.
The Black Cats have followed the lead of neighbours Newcastle United by scouting for young talent in France. Their investigations have led them to Le Havre’s Ba (pictured left). A renowned breeding ground, the Ligue 2 club are used to losing their top players, but the chairman of their education centre, Johann Louvel, is hopeful Ba will not leave just yet.
The fact Ba is still on a trainee contract and free to leave in the summer means he is powerless to intervene if Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur or Borussia Dortmund follow up their interest.
“I hope there won’t be any developments (over Ba’s future),” Louvel told French sports paper L’Equipe.
“We will meet his representatives soon and we hope to find an agreement for everyone’s interest.” Ba revealed Sunderland’s interest in January, declaring himself “flattered” by it.
Whether simply an attempt by Louvel to delay the seemingly inevitable or not, he has suggested the defensive midfielder does not yet have the stamina to play in a top league. “He still has difficulties to hold on more than one hour (in a game), so he still has to make a lot of basic work to be able to repeat efforts,” he said. “So I cannot see any sport or financial interest for him to leave us.”
That said, Sunderland probably do not see Ba as a player to go directly into their first team, but one for their academy coaches to refine, so whether that less than glowing recommendation would actually put them off is doubtful.
Ba has played for his country at under-18, under-19 and under-20, forming a productive partnership with another Le Havre graduate, Juventus’ Paul Pogba. The Black Cats have also been linked with Hannover striker Didier Ya Konan, along with Wigan Athletic.
The 28-year-old Ivory Coast international has scored five Bundesliga goals this season for the Europa League qualifiers. And Konan would certainly welcome interest from England.
“I have always dreamt of playing in the Premier League but nothing has happened so far,” he said.
“I heard about teams interested through my representative in the UK but nothing has happened.
“I am here in Hanover. We are trying to finish the season strongly and see at the end of the season. We played in Europe this season and we want to do that again.”
Meanwhile, Fulham manager Martin Jol has said Kieran Richardson “should” be a top-class left-back.
The Londoner has had an injury-hit debut season at Craven Cottage, restricted to just eight starts – six in midfield – since joining from the Black Cats. He is, however, pushing for another against his old club at the Stadium of Light tomorrow after recovering from a calf problem.
The Manchester United product’s ability to play a number of positions has always been a mixed blessing for him, but Jol has suggested his best position may be in defence. “He’s a versatile player, he can play on the left, he can play in midfield and he can play left-back,” said the Dutchman. “And I feel that he should be – not could be – a terrific left-back because he did that before.
“He had a good season with Steve Bruce as a left-back but then he played a bit differently so if you give him the licence to express himself I think he will be good as a left-back.”
Cash turnstiles will be in operation tomorrow and £30 adult tickets are available from 1.30pm. No concessions are available at the turnstiles, although they can be bought from the ticket office, which is open from 10am until kick-off.