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English Premier League

Sunderland sack Senegal flop Papy Djilobodji: defender returned to club nine weeks late and disastrously out of shape

Wantaway defender returns to North East club late and unfit before being fired

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 1:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 1:50pm

Championship side Sunderland have sacked defender Papy Djilobodji after the Senegal international returned to the club nine weeks late for the start of the new season and “comprehensively failed” a routine fitness test, it was announced on Thursday.

Djilobodji, who was signed from Premier League club Chelsea for a fee of £8 million (US$10.5 million, HK$82.4 million) in August 2016, made 18 appearances for the North East club during an unhappy two years on Tyneside.

A club statement revealed the club had allowed him to spend July finding a new club after the defender reportedly told them he wished to move. Instead, after failing to find a new club, Djilobodji ignored repeated requests to return to training at the Stadium of Light until turning up early in September out of shape.

“Djilobodji, who was under contract to SAFC until June 2020, indicated in June 2018 that he wished to leave the club,” read the statement. “In order to facilitate that desire, the club entered into a written agreement with the player allowing him to spend the month of July on voluntary unpaid leave.

When that period came to an end, the player was expected either to leave for a new club – having reached a deal satisfactory to himself and SAFC – or to return in shape to play professional football. Instead, he returned to Sunderland over a month later, in the first week of September, ignoring written requests for his return. On his return, he was subjected to the same fitness test that his fellow professionals had undertaken on their return. He comprehensively failed that test.

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“As a result, Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted Papy Djilobodji’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player”.

Sunderland are reported to be preparing to sue both Djilobodji and £13.6 million club record signing Didier Ndong for punitive damages after accusing both players of manufacturing moves away from the club.

Sunderland are currently sitting in fourth place in League One, England’s third tier, after two successive relegations.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross told The Telegraph on Thursday that he spent only a few minutes with Djilobodji after he returned to the club.

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“I only met Papy for the first time [last week] and I’ve never met Didier, so it’s been pretty simple for me to be honest,” Ross said.

“I know it sounds a bit cold, but they never came across my path, so I never had the opportunity to gauge them, either as individuals or as players.

“They’re employed to do a job [and they’re not doing it], just like people from other walks of life. That’s where it becomes more complicated, and if you dropped people from the outside who don’t pay a lot of attention to football, into the middle of this, they would probably struggle to get their heads around it.”

Both players were reported to be earning around £30,000 per week, but seemingly decided they did not want to play in England’s third tier.