Sunderland boss David Moyes has accused midfielder Jeremain Lens of being "disgracefully disrespectful" to the club after apparently claiming he might get the move he wants if they are relegated.
The 29-year-old Dutchman is currently on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce under former Black Cats boss Dick Advocaat, the man who brought him to the Stadium of Light in an £8m move from Dynamo Kiev in July 2015, where he has been earning rave reviews.
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Advocaat is keen to strike a permanent deal for Lens and Sunderland are prepared to offload the player, who failed to make a lasting impact during his 13 months on Wearside, although no agreement is yet in place.
The former PSV Eindhoven man was widely quoted in the Turkish media this week suggesting that Sunderland's relegation from the Premier League might make a transfer more likely to come to fruition, but that drew a furious response from Moyes.
I want to try to add to the squad if I can. There's always a price for somebody, but my plan is not to sell any players.
"It's disgracefully disrespectful to the club which holds his registration. You would hate to think that anybody who was connected to a club had said that,” the Scot said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game with Stoke.
"Maybe when he left people thought, 'What are you doing, getting rid of him?' I don't know if anybody would want him back at the club now. If the quotes are correct, then I think it would be very hard for that to happen."
Moyes decided to send Lens out on loan in August after failing to see enough in training to believe he had a role to play.
"I knew his reputation as a player. I thought, 'We're short and we haven't got a great deal of quality - is it right to move him on?'," added Moyes.
"But there was just some things I saw which I wasn't sure about. In the end, these are the decisions the managers have to make."
Moyes is currently battling to keep hold of a number of players, with the Black Cats having rejected a £7m bid from Crystal Palace for full-back Patrick van Aanholt on Friday.
The manager revealed that Palace's approach, which came barely a week after West Ham attempted to prise star striker Jermain Defoe from the Stadium of Light, was the latest in a series of bids from potential suitors and was rebuffed unequivocally.
"It's a permanent 'no' because we want to keep him. We have had bids for other players, so somewhere along the line, maybe we'll decide there'll be a bid we do take, but at the moment, I want to keep our best players,” said Moyes.
“I want to try to add to the squad if I can. Ultimately there's always a price for somebody, but my plan is not to sell any players."
Sunderland's precarious financial position, as outlined by chief executive Martin Bain last month, means there will be very limited investment this month, and the need for prudence has been underlined by figures from UEFA which show the club recorded the 11th biggest net debt in Europe during the 2015 financial year
Only Manchester United and QPR in England owed more than the €208m - around £181.4m - for which Sunderland were in the red, a figure which equated to one-and-a-half times the revenue they collected during the same period.
Moyes said: "I wasn't aware how poor Sunderland's financial position was, but I think what the club has done is they have made it clear about the transfers and the money, that it had to be cut back, and that's what Martin explained.
"I don't think it really has a great effect on me, except that I can't go out and spend an awful lot of cash.
“But the bigger thing is you don't want a club that has got that much debt because it means it's going to make it very difficult."