VITO MANNONE has dismissed suggestions he handed in a transfer request following Costel Pantilimon’s arrival at the Stadium of Light, and claimed Gustavo Poyet has already assured him he will be Sunderland’s number one goalkeeper next season.
Mannone’s future was cast into doubt following Pantilimon’s move to Wearside as a free agent, with media reports in his native Italy suggesting he had threatened to leave the Black Cats despite finishing last season as the club’s Player of the Year.
However, the 26-year-old insists there is no substance to claims he was considering his future, and cannot wait to return to the North-East for the start of pre-season training next month.
“I don’t know where this false speculation is coming from, but I want to let supporters know that there is absolutely nothing in it,” said Mannone.
“I have not asked for a transfer and I have no intention of doing so. Why would I? I love Sunderland and the Sunderland fans. I enjoyed last season and am looking forward to next season, and hope we can reward the fans by winning something.”
Keiren Westwood’s departure at the end of last season created a vacancy in Sunderland’s goalkeeping ranks, but eyebrows were nevertheless raised when Pantilimon agreed a four-year deal following his release from Manchester City.
Having spent the last two seasons playing second fiddle to Joe Hart, it was assumed Pantilimon had been promised the opportunity of first-team football in order to persuade him to join the Black Cats.
Sunderland’s new sporting director, Lee Congerton, spoke of the need for competition for places when Pantilimon’s arrival was confirmed, but Mannone claims he has already been promised the starting spot at the start of next season.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper discussed his position with Poyet before leaving for his summer break, and while he was told a new goalkeeper would be arriving, he claims his own position is not in jeopardy.
“I welcome the arrival of another goalkeeper at the club,” said Mannone. “All big clubs need cover in all positions.
“The manager told me some time ago that he would be bringing someone else in because two keepers were leaving, but he also told me I am his number one, and that’s good enough for me.”
Sunderland are interested in a season-long loan deal for Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, who joined the Blues for £12m in January, only to be immediately loaned back to his former club, St Etienne.
Jose Mourinho is understood to want Zouma to gain experience of English football next season, and Sunderland are one of a number of Premier League clubs to be monitoring his position.
The Wearsiders are also mulling over a move for Norwich City midfielder Robert Snodgrass, although the Canaries’ decision to turn down Hull City’s £6m bid for the Scotland international is understood to have cooled Sunderland’s interest significantly.
Norwich turned down Hull's initial offer despite it representing a 100 per cent increase on the fee they shelled out to sign Snodgrass from Leeds two years ago, and Sunderland would be unwilling to go any higher for a player who has already expressed his misgivings about dropping into the Championship.