Lamine Kone has hailed the impact fellow defender Younes Kaboul had in helping Sunderland avoid relegation this season.
Kone was a £5million January arrival at the Stadium of Light from Lorient and his solid performances in the heart of the back four helped ensure the Black Cats avoided the drop with a game to spare.
Alongside him was Kaboul who himself was only signed by the Wearsiders at the start of the season and, after a shaky start, appeared to find his feet on his return from injury in March.
The pair’s partnership helped Sunderland claim four clean sheets on their way to survival and although defensive reinforcements are thought to be on boss Sam Allardyce’s shopping list for the summer, he may look to stick with the duo following their impressive end to the campaign.
Throughout his career Kaboul has often been labelled as a player with the odd mistake in his locker but with him now 30, has appeared far more assured in recent months.
His team-mate believes the former Tottenham and Portsmouth man was a key reason for his side’s survival ahead of the likes of Norwich and Newcastle, describing the Frenchman as an “absolute wall”.
“Younes has been absolutely fantastic since he came back from his injury,” Kone told the Sunderland Echo.
“Maybe in his first games back, it was a little bit tough for him, but that’s the same for any player coming back.
“He’s been an absolute wall. No-one gets past him. He’s a great player and he’s someone I get on really well with.”