SUNDERLAND are already looking at ways to improve the squad in January after successfully reaching an agreement for Papy Djilobodji to follow Didier Ndong out of the Stadium of Light’s exit doors.

The two big earners on Wearside have caused the club’s owner Stewart Donald, who only took over in the summer, frustration as he has looked to cut the operating costs at Sunderland following back to back relegations from the Premier League.

Djilobodji and Ndong were two of those who had been a strain on the finances, having failed to secure a move away from the North-East in the summer and then gone AWOL for a period without permission, according to the club.

Now, after an agreement was reached with Ndong to leave least month, Djilobodji has followed suit in a deal that makes the player and Sunderland happy.

Sunderland served notice his contract was to be terminated in September after the former Chelsea defender finally returned to the club.

The £8m buy appealed against that and the case was set for a battle in the courts before Sunderland announced that an agreement with both parties.

Djilobodji wrote on Instagram: "Alhamdouli Ilah. Always believe in God!!! Thank you so much for everything God."

The frustrating centre-back had been told he could spend July trying to engineer a move away from Wearside but that did not materialise. He was due to return to the Academy of Light in August but only headed back in September. Sunderland then claimed that he ‘comprehensively failed’ a fitness test.

Now that the situation has been addressed, Djilobodji can look for a new club to sign for in January when he will be a free agent.

A club statement read: “Sunderland AFC has reached an agreement with Papy Djilobodji for his departure, his employment having terminated on 21 September 2018.”

Djilobodji – who made only 24 first-team appearances for the Black Cats following his move from Chelsea in 2016 - will at least be able to move freely now, but the situation is not the same as Ndong.

The Gabon international is finding it hard to sign for a new club because of the 4m euros compensation fee that they will be due when he does play for someone else.

Ndong, who was also AWOL from pre-season training after Sunderland’s second successive relegation, has been training with third division Gabonese side Sports Club Libreville.

He has suitably impressed enough for them to explore signing him. A deal has not happened because of the compensation Sunderland are due under the terms of his release.

According to Gabonese outlet iSport, it is also claimed the 24-year-old is even struggling to afford the CFA 500,000 (around £665) player registration fee the league require.

Sunderland will not be concerned too much about those things now. Manager Jack Ross is looking to capitalise on a strong start to life in League One by making slight improvements to his squad in January.

The exits of Ndong and Djilobodji will free up a sizeable chunk of the players’ wage budget and even though he will not get every penny of that it will help his cause.

Sunderland have climbed into the top two in League One and play in the FA Cup on Sunday against Port Vale.