Defiant Sunderland boss David Moyes is refusing to admit defeat in his battle to keep hold of Lamine Kone.
On a day when Kone’s central defensive partner Younes Kaboul headed for a medical at Watford, after the two clubs agreed a fee in the region of £3.5million, Moyes revealed that the Ivory Coast international did not appear to want the new contract offer the club made to him earlier this week.
However, despite having to rule the player out of Sunday’s derby clash with Middlesbrough after he arrived for training and reported a back injury, Moyes is still hoping to retain his services despite Everton having tabled an offer for him.
Asked if he expected Kone to stay, the Scot said: “He’s got a four-year contract, he’s six months into it, so there’s no real panic.
“He’s a good boy, I have enjoyed working with him the time that I’ve been here, so we hope that he does [stay]. We hope that he sees we want him to be here.
“Obviously, we have got an offer from Everton, and he knows that as well.”
Kone asked to leave the club last week, claiming the Black Cats had not honoured a verbal offer of an improved deal following his contribution to last season’s successful Premier League survival campaign, and was told the club would keep its word after the transfer window had closed.
However, they made their move earlier this week, only to be met by stony silence.
Moyes said: “I don’t know if he’s actually refused it, he just didn’t want it. We gave him the offer and he didn’t really want the offer.
“We had said that we would do it on September 1, but we thought we’d bring it forward just to give him the feeling of the security that he’s got it. But he’s chosen not to want it.”
Kaboul’s situation is more straightforward, although no less unsettling for fans who fear the dismantling of the foundation upon which the club’s improved form was built.
Moyes said: “We got an enquiry from Watford and when we did, Younes also came and saw me and said if this was right, he would like to go back to Watford.
“He wanted to go back – his family home is there and his choice would be to go back – so reluctantly, we agreed to it.”
Moyes will hand a debut to summer signing Papy Djilobodji, but will also be without combative midfielder Lee Cattermole against his first club and for the foreseeable future after he underwent surgery to repair a double hernia, and he is likely to be out of action for up to six weeks.
However, there will be one new face in the squad with former Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who played under Moyes at Goodison Park, having signed a one-year contract after impressing during a trial on Wearside.