Why is Jermain Defoe playing for Sunderland?
No, seriously, can anyone explain why?
In the modern game, especially at the elite level, goals and goal scorers have become the most sought after commodity bar none. The simple math is that goals win games, and that winning games secures silverware or safety, depending on which end of the table your chosen club occupies, and that the financial rewards for such success have never been bigger. Every Premier League club appears to be in an almost constant search to try and locate and sign the mythical ‘twenty goal a season striker’ and there is certainly nothing more exciting for a supporter than watching the news break that your manager has just invested big in a new multi-million pound centre forward.
But if this is truly the case, than why has one of the most prominent English goal scorers of the last decade been plying his trade at relegation threatened Sunderland?
Jermain Defoe has found the net on 261 occasions in a seventeen-year career that has seen him represent six different football clubs, four of which were based in the Premier League in West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth and now Sunderland. Quite simply, the relatively diminutive striker has plundered goals at the top end of English football for over a decade – he is the definition of ‘goal machine’.
Even more significant perhaps is that at the age of 34, Defoe continues to score goals on a frighteningly regular basis for Sunderland despite the fact that his employers have been embroiled in an annual relegation battle since his arrival at the start of 2015. Last season he almost single-handedly lead The Black Cats to Premier League survival by firing in 18 goals across all competitions, and he hardly look like slowing down this campaign either having netted eight goals in fourteen league fixtures so far.
So why is it that a proven Premier League goal scorer that shows no sign of losing his knack of finding the back of the net continuously overlooked by leading clubs?
Would he not be a viable option for someone like, say, Tottenham? Mauricio Pochettino splashed out £17 million on Vincent Janssen in the summer and the striker, untested and seemingly unsuited to the English game, has grabbed a grand total of four goals in twenty three appearances so far this campaign. Spurs required a striker to complement and act as back-up to Harry Kane but their gamble on a foreign import has been anything but a success so far. Would a return to North East London, albeit for a third time, for Defoe have been such a bad idea? If the striker can score 30 goals feeding off the service provided by Jack Rodwell and Lee Cattermole at Sunderland, just image how much that tally would increase if he had the likes of Cristian Eriksen and Dele Alli providing the ammunition.
Maybe Defoe’s age deters leading clubs from chasing his signature, especially with an increasing tendency for managers to go for younger players with potential or more exotic foreign imports. But his primary talent is not physique, it is the instinct of being in the right place at the right time in order to convert chances.
So, what about mid-table clubs? Those sides that are a proven goal scorer away from pushing for a Europa League spot? Take Stoke City for example. Mark Hughes has remoulded The Potters into an entertaining, consistent top-ten team in the Premier League but, despite possessing the attacking talents of Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri, they are desperately in need of someone to put the ball into the back of the net. Their current top scorer is Joe Allen (4) with the highest striker on the list being Wilfried Bony (2). Surely no one could argue that Defoe in the current Stoke City team would score more two goals? The added firepower might just be enough to catapult The Potters towards Europe.
These are all speculations and we may never have the opportunity to find out exactly how the signing of Defoe could provide the impetus and firepower to move a team forward. If we assume that every leading club is searching for that proven goal scorer, then we can safely say that they are missing a trick by ignoring the obvious talent of Defoe.
But everyone else’s loss is certainly Sunderland’s gain and I doubt that either David Moyes or those Black Cat supporters in the North East will be doing anything but celebrating should they keep hold of the striker until the end of the season and beyond.
Jermain Defoe. English football’s currently most under-rated goal machine.
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