Sunderland loanee Amad Diallo has my heart, and I don’t want it back

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Amad Diallo’s loan stint with Sunderland will come to an end later this month.

Don’t ever fall in love with a loan player. It’s a simple piece of advice in and of itself, and one that we’ve all heard enough times to absorb and rationalise; of course there is a logic to it, of course you are allowing yourself to live in the shadow of a looming delusion.

The thing is though, the heart wants what the heart wants - and while it might be easy to swat away pesky affections for inexperienced defensive cover or veteran journeymen who provide little more than padding to the midriff of paper thin dressing rooms, there are some temporary paramours that are harder to get over. You see, whoever first suggested that you shouldn’t allow loanees into the deepest recesses of your yearning fondness had clearly never come across Amad Diallo.

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WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Amad Diallo of Sunderland celebrates after the team's victory in the Sky Bet Championship between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on April 23, 2023 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Amad Diallo of Sunderland celebrates after the team's victory in the Sky Bet Championship between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on April 23, 2023 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Amad Diallo of Sunderland celebrates after the team's victory in the Sky Bet Championship between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on April 23, 2023 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

When Sunderland signed the young Ivorian last summer, I was reserved in my enthusiasm. His reputation preceded him, naturally, as did the multi-multi-million pound transfer fee that Manchester United had paid to tear him away from Atalanta the January prior. But here was a player who had made minimal impact at Old Trafford in the months since, and who had endured a mixed loan stint with Rangers up in Scotland towards the tail end of the previous campaign. In the conservative pessimism of my mind’s eye - one blinkered by a lifetime of indentured Mackem devotion - I had my lingering, sobering doubts. I didn’t necessarily believe Amad would fail, but nor did I dare to fantasise about him making anything close to the impact that he has. For that I was wrong, and I am very, very sorry.

So far this season, the attacker has scored 12 goals in 36 Championship appearances, and assisted three more. I say ‘so far’ because he still has one more game left to play in red and white stripes. (If things go Sunderland’s way on the final day, he could have an additional three in mid to late May, but let’s not get into that potential agony right now. Lifetime of indentured Mackem devotion etc, etc.)

These are just the numbers, though - the tallies in the column; the cold, unfeeling statistics - and Amad Diallo’s endearing, enchanting, enrapturing stint on Wearside has been about so much more than the ugly greed of swelling charts and figures.

How can words even begin to describe this telepathic cherub? How can my clumsy, crooked fingers hammering away at this battered keyboard do justice to the elegance that courses through his slight limbs, his every enthralling motion, like strands of silk weaving their way through a vast, unfurling tapestry? How can these blunt, dull utterances evoke the electrification of seeing him and Patrick Roberts - two ornate spinning tops dancing across a malachite canvas - fuse their thoughts and audacious visions into one endlessly delightful, ceaselessly baffling hivemind? How can I convey with just 26 paltry letters the glint in his smirk or the way that the goosebumps rise and ripple down my forearm as he drives at a hapless, isolated full-back in the final third? There is no way, and there never will be.

I’m not daft; I know you should never fall in love with a loan player. But the fact of the matter is that Amad Diallo has stolen my heart, and honestly, I’m not even sure that I want it back.

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