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Khazri will lead Tunisia’s attack in their World Cup campaign, and will be crucial to their hopes of advancing from Group G into the knockout stage of the tournament.
Should he play an essential role in guiding Tunisia into the latter phases it can only be good news for Sunderland in their attempt to cash in on one of the few assets left to the club. Khazri has a number of suitors after he impressed during his loan spell with Rennes last season. Those could well grow to increase a potential fee for the winger; from the range of £8m towards double figures and beyond.
He will face off Belgium in Group G, and will play a significant role in deciding their fate in the tournament. The side are perennial underachievers and it would not be a surprise to see Khazri and his team-mates play a part in another struggle, which could be worth a punt in the latest World Cup betting odds for Roberto Martinez’s men.
Three stellar performances for his country could make a huge difference back on Wearside – just like another England failure did in 2016. During the first six months with the Black Cats, he was a vital player in the survival push under Sam Allardyce. Khazri thrived in his role under Big Sam before the Three Lions’ disaster against Iceland brought about the end of Roy Hodgson and paved the way for Allardyce to become the new manager of the national side.
David Moyes arrived at the Stadium of Light did not take a liking to the Tunisian, moving him in and out of the team early in the campaign before he fell completely out of favour towards the end of the term as relegation to the Championship was confirmed. Much like Sunderland’s season, Khazri’s term was a complete disaster, with the blame perhaps equally shared between the player and the manager. The theme continued as Simon Grayson opted to keep the winger on the bench for an opening-day draw against Derby County before the 27-year-old secured a loan move to Rennes.
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There he appeared to find his comfort zone, scoring 11 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions. Rennes have been trying to push a move through for the winger, but Khazri and his agent are now playing the waiting game to determine whether a strong World Cup could yield a better transfer.
All the better for Sunderland, as even though the club are debt free, there is still £25m of outstanding transfer fees to be paid in legacy payments. Khazri could take a large chunk out of that bill himself, strengthening Stewart Donald and Jack Ross’ hand in the transfer market as they look to overhaul the squad that was relegated from the Championship.
A large fee for Khazri could may allow Sunderland to invest or stave off interest from other clubs for the likes of Paddy McNair and George Honeyman, who have been linked with moves to the Premier League and Championship respectively. For the second time in two years, an international tournament could be very significant for fans on Wearside.