STEPHANE Sessegnon has assured Sunderland supporters he has no intention of leaving the club this summer, and confirmed his previous personal problems are now firmly behind him.

Sessegnon came close to leaving the Stadium of Light last summer as his family's failure to settle on Wearside was making it difficult for him to remain in the North-East.

Martin O'Neill persuaded him not to uproot, and his family has subsequently moved to England on a full-time basis, a development that has made him feel much more secure in his new environment.

Given the strength of his recent performances, it is anticipated that Sessegnon will once again be the subject of interest this summer. Liverpool continue to be linked with the 28-year-old, while his former employers, Paris St Germain, have discussed the possibility of luring him back to France.

However, as he prepares for this evening's game with Aston Villa, a match that could go a long way towards confirming Sunderland's Premier League status, Sessegnon is adamant he will be not be going anywhere when the transfer window reopens.

“The issue with my family is settled now,” said the Benin international, who has scored in each of Sunderland's last two games. “Two years ago when I arrived, sometimes my family wasn't here, but now it is fine.

“They live here now and the problem is completely finished. Even then (last summer) though, I never gave it (leaving) a thought. I didn't think about it and I didn't think about what was being said about me.”

In part, Sessegnon's reaffirmed desire to remain on Wearside reflects the strength of his embryonic relationship with new Black Cats boss Paolo Di Canio.

As a former idiosyncratic attacking midfielder, Di Canio is well placed to relate to the difficulties and issues inherent in Sessegnon's pivotal creative role.

Di Canio has already talked at length about getting the best out of Sessegnon, a player who has produced the occasional flash of genius during his two seasons in a Sunderland shirt, but whose overall impact has not been commensurate with his abundant talent.

It will be interesting to see how the dynamic between the two develops, but Sessegnon has been impressed by what he has seen from his new manager in his first month in the role.

“He has told me I can score more, more than I was scoring before,” he said. “He has told me I have the quality to do that. He told me I need to score more goals, and since then I have scored two in two games.

“I like this kind of management and it shows. In one month we have had three games, and I have scored two goals. It is good at the moment. After that, we don't know, but at the moment we like this coach.”

It is clear that the respect is mutual, with Di Canio extolling the virtues he first saw in Sessegnon when the African was a youngster playing with Paris St Germain.

Back then, he would regularly cross paths with Alfred N'Diaye, who spent three seasons with Nancy before leaving French football to move to Turkey.

Like the majority of the Sunderland squad, N'Diaye regards Sessesgnon as the club's most exciting attacking talent, and the defensive midfielder is happy to be finally playing on the same team rather than lining up against him.

“For me, he is the best player in this team,” said N'Diaye. “The fans love him, and all of his team-mates love him too. He is a very, very good player and I know this from experience.

“I played against him when I was only 18 and he was playing for Paris St Germain. It was very difficult for me – I marked him because he was playing number ten and I was playing number six. It was difficult – I definitely prefer playing with him rather than against him.

“I was only 18, and I think we lost the game. It's difficult to mark him because he has the combination of being very fast and very strong as well. Every time I played him in France, I took a yellow card. Every time. It is different in training now because I stay away from him.”

Others aren't so reticent, and Sessegnon will go into this evening's game at Villa Park as the most fouled player in the Premier League. He will seek to exploit an Aston Villa defence that has been shipping goals all season, safe in the knowledge that with a five-point advantage over 18th-placed Wigan, Sunderland are close to achieving their primary target of remaining in the top-flight.

“When we started the season, the ambition was to be in the top ten,” said Sessegnon. “After we played in the first few games we maybe looked higher, but then it became more difficult.

“Now, we have changed coach and the first ambition – the only ambition – is to stay in the Premier League. Now we are playing well, if we win one more game, I think we are safe. After that, we will just take happiness in staying in the league and take enjoyment from it.”