Djibril Cissé cost Queens Park Rangers £4.5 million. It looks a bigger waste of money with each red card. He could yet prove to have cost them Premier League football.
At least when he wore the red-and-white of Sunderland it was only on loan. When he was dismissed for the second time in his Rangers career in the 55th minute yesterday, Mark Hughes' side trailed by one goal. At times you have to wonder what goes through a player's head for Cissé to lunge, with both feet off the ground, at some pace, and clean out Fraizer Campbell.
And at times you have to remind players (and often supporters) of the rulebook, which states: "Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."
In short, Cissé had broken every part of the rule and Mike Jones, the referee, immediately brandished a red card. At that point it was Cissé who fell to his knees, striking the ground with both hands.
No sense of footballing legality, but 10 out of 10 for the amateur dramatics. Eventually he got to his feet (still, before Campbell), and so the slow walk to the tunnel began, his sense of injustice still apparent. By then, Sunderland's supporters had dusted off their own Cissé song (he scored in a Tyne-Wear derby) and the bizarre sight unfolded of a player dismissed, who had left his team-mates a player short for half an hour with relegation looming, leaving the field of play with his manager's cold shoulder and a song from three years ago blasting around the Stadium of Light for comfort.
Cissé, remember, was sent off on his QPR home debut following his January move from Lazio. That resulted in an automatic three-game ban. Yesterday's misdemeanours came in his fifth game. He now has an automatic four-game ban. By the time he returns in April, Cissé will have started five games from a possible 12.
Somewhere amid this apparent madness is a player who could have made a difference. Cissé has scored three times in those five starts. That kind of form can save a club. Yesterday's madness can send them down.
"It's a crazy challenge by Djibril," said Hughes. "He knows that. It's compromised us. That will hurt us. When we've been able to keep him on the pitch he's been excellent for us.
"What was said is for the dressing room but suffice to say I wasn't too delighted. We can't really dwell on it. Even if he had stayed on, I don't think we would have won the game. We weren't good enough today. We didn't compete. It was a really poor performance. I expect more from us. We caused more problems for ourselves than the opposition caused us."
Hughes spent much of the afternoon aghast at his side's failings, turning repeatedly towards his dugout in despair. Sunderland's first goal came four minutes before half time. James McClean crossed from the left and Nicklas Bendtner headed past Paddy Kenny with barely a challenge coming from Taye Taiwo. Then Cissé went off and the game was as good as over.
With 20 minutes remaining, Nedum Onuaha misjudged a high ball into the Rangers' defence. McClean seized on it, had his first shot charged down and his second went past Kenny with the suggestion of a deflection off the defender. A third followed when David Vaughan crossed from the left and Stéphane Sessègnon swept the ball past Kenny. A Taiwo free-kick was nothing more than consolation.
"I'm delighted to have won and the goals we scored were excellent," the Sunderland manager. Martin O'Neill. said. "It was a very good performance by us. James was magnificent. He was a constant threat throughout the afternoon. If anything, he is getting more confidence about his game. He made the first goal, he helped make the third goal and he scored the second. Overall he was brilliant."
Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; O'Shea (Campbell, 27), Kyrgiakos, Turner, Bridge (Meyler, 70); Gardner, Vaughan, Colback, McClean; Séssègnon, Bendtner.
QPR (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Onuaha, Ferdinand, Taiwo; Mackie, Diakite (Buzsaky, 53), Derry, Taarabt (Wright-Phillips, 60); Zamora, Cissé.
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: McClean (Sunderland)
Match rating: 6/10