Everton target Lamine Kone seeks Sunderland exit on eve of new season
Lamine Kone has asked to leave Sunderland just days before the start of the new Premier League season as Everton lead the chase for his signature.
The Ivory Coast defender has revealed he has requested a move away from the Stadium of Light following talks with manager David Moyes and chief executive Martin Bain on Thursday, saying that an expected improved contract offer had failed to materialise.
In a statement, the 27-year-old said: "After a week in which there has been a vast amount of speculation with regard to my future at Sunderland Football Club, I think that it is only fair to the fans of the club to clarify the situation.
"At the end of last season, I was told by the club that I would be offered a new contract. Following numerous phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, the latest of which took place today with David Moyes and Martin Bain, no contract has been forthcoming.
"It is therefore with much regret that I can only assume that I do not figure in David Moyes' future plans.
"With that being the case, it is with much sadness that I have asked the manager and the chief executive to be allowed to leave Sunderland Football Club.
"However until that time, I give my word that I will give my utmost in training and on the field."
Kone is understood to have travelled to Merseyside earlier this week with a view to pushing through an £18million move to Goodison Park, where the Toffees are looking to rebuild their defence following John Stones' £47.5million departure for Manchester City.
However, he returned to Wearside for training on Wednesday with no deal in place and now appears to be attempting to force the club's hand.
The Black Cats had announced the double capture of Manchester United youngsters Paddy McNair and Donald Love, both defenders, earlier on Thursday, and that was seen by many as a move to cover themselves in the event of Kone's departure.
It is understood Everton, who have already signed Wales skipper Ashley Williams from Swansea this week, are not the only admirers of the former Lorient player, with Chelsea among the potential suitors monitoring the situation.
One Sunderland fan has started an online petition to urge the club to retain the player's services after he played a major role in helping to stave off relegation last season following his £6million arrival in January.
But it remains to be seen whether bridges can be built or if the Black Cats, who open the new campaign at Manchester City on Saturday, will now cash in on one of their most saleable assets.