Sunderland winger Adam Johnson has hailed the return of "world class" defender Wes Brown.
The former Manchester United player moved to Wearside along with John O'Shea in the summer of 2011, but has seen his time at the club marred by persistent injuries.
Offered a mutual termination by Paolo Di Canio earlier in the year, the 33-year-old rejected the proposal in a bid to resurrect his career at the Stadium of Light.
Commended for his work ethic during pre-season by Di Canio, Johnson feels Brown's long awaited return to the first team is akin to the club gaining a new signing.
"We've got a world-class defender back," Johnson told BBC Newcastle. "He's been the best new signing we've had. Even though he's not a new signing, it has felt that way. It shows the type of player he is. We've seen how composed and top class he is and if we keep him fit we'll definitely be a stronger team."
Meanwhile, midfielder Alfred N'Diaye has dismissed claims that a problem with Di Canio caused him to depart the club.
Signed in January by Martin O'Neill from Bursaspor in a deal worth £3.8 million, the French midfielder was allowed to return to the Turkish league this summer after joining Eskisehirspor on loan.
Unable to guarantee the 23-year-old regular playing time at the Stadium of Light, N'Diaye revealed that his desire to earn regular playing time was what motivated his move rather than a disagreement with his manager.
“There was no problem with the coach," he told the Sunderland Echo. "We talked about my expectations because I need playing time, so it was agreed to my loan and I chose Turkey. I arrived in the winter and everything went well. I loved my team-mates, fans and also the coaching. But there was a change of coach with the arrival of Di Canio.
“So I talked with him to know what he planned for me because I’m at an age where I need to play. He could not guarantee me playing time so I was hoping that a loan would be agreed. I had several offers, but it is this one in Turkey that gave me the most motivation. I know the coach [at Eskisehirspor], I spoke with him and he is counting on me for the upcoming season. This offer guaranteed me the most playing time.
“After the half-season I spent at Sunderland, starting on the bench was not what I wanted. I am only 23, but you must play every week to progress. I could have stayed at Sunderland, but I preferred the loan. And perhaps the Senegal call would not have opened up otherwise. I am very proud to be called up.”