Di Canio facing huge fight to keep keeper on Wearside

PAOLO DI CANIO faces a massive fight to keep Simon Mignolet at the Stadium of Light with Sunderland braced to receive record-busting offers for the highly-rated Belgian goalkeeper.

As Premier League new-boys Cardiff City also consider a £4.5m move for Danny Graham, just four months after he left South Wales in a £5m switch from Swansea, Di Canio's busy summer looks set to begin straightaway.

Sunderland havc started contract talks with Mignolet in a bid to keep him on Wearside, amid fears that the strong interest will be firmed up in the next few weeks.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool are weighing up bids for Mignolet while there is significant interest in him from abroad, with Napoli among those to have had him watched.

But it is the prospect of staying in the Premier League which could prove significant, particularly at Arsenal where the opportunity to play Champions League football will be dangled in front of the 25-year-old.

The Gunners are preparing a £10m bid for Mignolet, which would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in Sunderland's history, although there is also strong interest from Liverpool.

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has accepted that Pepe Reina will be on his way to Barcelona this summer as a direct replacement for Monaco-bound Victor Valdes.

And Mignolet has been short-listed by Rodgers to replace Reina along with Stoke City's Asmir Begovic and Swansea City's Michel Vorm.

It is a situation which is going to significantly impact on Sunderland, with Mignolet destined to be the subject of a multi-million bid which will test Di Canio's resolve to keep him.

Begovic, who has also expressed a desire to move to Anfield, is Liverpool's preferred buy and would be affordable if Reina is to be sold at a reasonable price with 12 months remaining on his contract.

But Rodgers also knows Mignolet is a realistic, high quality alternative so has not ruled out trying to tempt Sunderland in to a sale either.

If Liverpool successfully land Begovic then that would clear the way for Arsenal to pursue Mignolet, despite the other interest from around Europe in the former Sint-Truiden goalkeeper.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been told he can strengthen his squad this summer and has reportedly been given £70m to spend, with improving his team's defensive ways his highest priority.

Swansea's defender Ashley Williams has been identified as the new centre-back he wants and Wenger's ideal would be to have Mignolet behind him when the new season starts in August.

Di Canio, who has Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood frustrated by a lack of first team chances on Wearside as No 2, would then have to consider whether to accept a substantial offer which would enable him to make further adjustments to a squad he inherited.

Mignolet was bought for just £2m by Steve Bruce three years ago and has quickly established himself as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the Premier League.

But Di Canio is keen to completely transform a squad he feels has indiscipline running rife through it, so extra finances could come in handy when he is recruiting his own players.

Losing such a top goalkeeper is not top of his wish list, although he will be happier to accept offers for other members of the squad put together by his predecessors.

It has emerged Graham, only signed by Martin O'Neill in January, is a target for Premier League new-boys Cardiff, where his former Watford manager Malky Mackay is manager.

Graham finished the season without a goal for the Black Cats and went more than 1,000 minutes without scoring despite having to play because of the long term absence of leading scorer Steven Fletcher.

Talks have already opened between Sunderland and Hull City for the £2m permanent sale of Ahmed Elmohamady following the Egyptian's successful loan to the KC Stadium.

Sunderland have added promising striker Duncan Watmore in from Altrincham. The 19-year-old will play with the devlopment squad from July 1. Watmore, from Cheshire, scored 14 goals in 29 starts for the Conference North club last season.

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