Darren Bent has again insisted his transfer to Aston Villa was not motivated by money as he prepares for his first return to Sunderland on Saturday.
The England striker is guaranteed a hostile reception at the Stadium of Light by fans still angry at his decision to quit Wearside for Villa Park in January. But Bent, who has promised not to celebrate should he score at the weekend, remains steadfast in his argument that he chose to join Villa for footballing reasons - and not a hefty pay rise.
"There was an offer of £24million on the table - it gave Sunderland a lot of money - and there were already several England internationals in the Villa squad and I saw it as a chance to go there, play with those guys, build up a rapport, get back into the England squad and stay there," he told The Times.
"I know that Sunderland fans cared for me and treated me like one of their own - I felt like one - so I understand why it looked like a betrayal, but in my eyes it wasn't that."
Bent handed in a transfer request just two hours after a poor display for Sunderland in a 1-1 home draw against arch rivals Newcastle. Forty-eight hours later he was confirmed as a Villa player.
That led to accusations from Sunderland of tapping-up - claims strenuously denied by Villa - while Black Cats boss Steve Bruce also revealed Bent had attempted to engineer a lucrative move to Turkey the previous summer despite the player repeatedly stating his love for the club and the region.
It was an acrimonious departure and one which Bent feels overshadowed his achievements at Sunderland, for whom he scored 32 goals in just 58 league appearances following his move from Tottenham in summer 2009.
"I had 18 months at Sunderland and every single moment was fantastic," the 27-year-old added.
"The way it came to an end was really disappointing because it felt like all the good work went out of the window but I will always - always - look back on it with very fond memories, regardless of the reception I get, whether I am booed or not.
"I am so grateful to the fans and the club and what they did for me. Whatever happens, I wouldn't celebrate if I scored a goal, no badge kissing or anything like that."