He came to the club with a bad-boy reputation and a point to prove, but Sunderland's Yann M'Vila has exceeded the expectations of many with his performances this season. Performances so impressive that they have even brought about suggestions that he could be one of the best players Sunderland have had in the Premier League.
Off-field issues blighted promising future
Many saw that M'Vila had great potential whilst playing for Rennes in the French Ligue 1, with one of the 21-year old's biggest admirers being Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who was once rumoured with lodging a £17 million bid in order to secure the talents of a young player who had found his way into a highly talented French national squad.
As good as M'Vila was on the pitch, it was his off-field behaviour that worried potential suitors. He fell out with then-France manager Laurent Blanc after visiting a nightclub in between Euro 2012 qualifying matches leading to a two year ban from the national side, adding to his previous indiscretions that included attacking a restaurant owner, hiring prostitutes and attacking a teenage boy who was interested in his sister.
Wenger decided not to take the risk and the move was off, his introduction to the Premier League would not come for another three years. After leaving Rennes his career stalled, with moves to Rubin Kazan and Inter Milan not representing huge successes for a man once heralded as one of Europe's best holding midfielders.
After Inter showed no interest in making his loan deal permanent, M'Vila trained with Russian side Dynamo Moscow in the hopes of earning a contract at the club. This however did not go to plan, as a dispute began between the club and M'Vila.
This resulted in M'Vila ransacking his rented property in Moscow and seeking refuge with teammate William Vainqueur, as well as purchasing an axe for protection after the club's head of security Pavel Konovalov was accused of beating foreign players up who did not pay their fines.
Premier League move finally comes to fruition
After all of the drama, Dick Advocaat made the move to bring the midfielder to Sunderland in a year-long loan deal with an option to make the deal permanent. Many were surprised at M'Vila's fall from grace, as he had been on the verge of signing for a Champions League club only two years ago but was now signing for a club involved in annual relegation battles.
His Sunderland career did not get off to the best of starts, as he was unceremoniously sent off in an under-21 match after head butting an opposition player. Fans saw a hot-head who was perhaps more likely to take the club down than help it stay up.
Fast-forward to the present day however, and opinions have certainly changed. M'Vila has been by far the standout performer in a largely poor Sunderland side and has become a fan favourite in the process, with other Premier League clubs keeping tabs on him.
M'Vila became even more popular with fans when he stated that he wishes to "stay here and play in the Premier League with Sunderland", with the player hoping that the club "make me an offer" in the summer if survival is achieved.
How does he compare to his current team-mates?
For fans that have watched Sunderland throughout the 2015/16 season, M'Vila has had no competition and has been far and away the player of the season so far, with the fact that he has played 2215 minutes - 690 more than the next highest midfielder Lee Cattermole - simply an indication of his importance to the team.
M'Vila has a pass completion rate of 83%, which is the third highest in the current Sunderland squad this season. Ahead of him are Jordi Gomez and Adam Matthews, who have only played a combined total 392 minutes for the club this season.
As well as this, M'Vila has made a total of 26 key passes, which is the same as fellow midfielders Lee Cattermole, Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Larsson combined. He has also created 29 chances, which is more than the total of 26 chances created by the same three players mentioned previously.
The Frenchman also has the most assists in the current squad with a total of three, which is incidentally a career high total for M'Vila who had previously only managed two assists over the course of a single season.
According to WhoScored, M'Vila has the second highest average rating for Sunderland in the 2015/16 season with a rating of 7.20. The man pipping him to the post is Tunisian Wahbi Khazri who holds a rating of 7.23 after his highly influential start to his Sunderland career playing out wide.
When compared to every midfielder in the Premier League this season, M'Vila has the highest number of interceptions, blocks and clearances when the three are combined. This comes to a total of 173, beating the 164 amassed by the highly praised Leicester midfielder N'Golo Kante.
One of Sunderland's best top-flight midfielders?
There is no doubt that if something were to happen to M'Vila, such as a lengthy injury, there would be a very large gap in the Sunderland midfield. This is one that would likely to be too large for any of the current squad to fill, with Jan Kirchhoff lacking his dribbling ability, Lee Cattermole lacking his influence going forward and Jack Rodwell lacking the composure on the ball that M'Vila possesses.
Such is the importance of his presence in Sam Allardyce's side, that many would be severely worried for their survival chances if something were to happen to the French international, who has been a rare transfer success for Sunderland who usually get foreign deals badly wrong.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind with the verdict for M'Vila, and that is that he has been an unequivocal success, and potentially one of the best midfielders of the Premier League era for the Black Cats.
All statistics used in this article were taken from the databases of Squawka and WhoScored.