Sunderland have told Didier Ndong that they intend to terminate his contract, saying he went awol in the wake of relegation to League One.
Sunderland have also indicated their readiness to take legal action to recoup the Gabon midfielder’s value should he join another club.
A club statement said: “Sunderland has given notice under its contract with Didier Ndong. The player, who was under contract with Sunderland until June 2021, failed to return to Sunderland for pre-season training in July as scheduled, nor in the subsequent months that followed.
“No reason was given for his failure to report and continued absence. As a result, Sunderland has accepted Didier Ndong’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player.
“Sunderland does so while retaining the right to pursue the player and any club he may subsequently join in relation to compensation for the value of the player.”
Didier Ndong joined Sunderland for a club record £13.6m from Lorient in August 2016
The Gabon international is understood to have belatedly turned up at the club’s training headquarters this week after the prospect of a transfer finally receded amid interest from Torino and Benfica.
He spent the second half of last season on loan at Watford as his parent club slipped out of the Championship but did not make a senior appearance.
Sunderland took similar action against the £8m Senegalese central defender Papy Djilobodji this month. They said he failed to meet the club’s fitness standards.