Arsenal’s Mannone close to Sunderland switch

Vito Mannone.
Vito Mannone.

SUNDERLAND hope to sign Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone in time for the squad reporting back for pre-season at the Academy of Light tomorrow.

The Black Cats were yesterday closing in on the 25-year-old Italian – back-up to the Gunners’ first-choice stopper Wojciech Szczesny last season – having agreed a fee with Arsenal at the weekend.

And with Mannone’s personal terms not expected to prove a stumbling block, Sunderland hope to have the move sealed quickly.

Ideally, the club would like to have him linking up with the rest of the Sunderland squad, whose first day back in pre-season begins tomorrow.

Mannone, approaching the last year of his contract at the Emirates, is expected to cost £2m – exactly the same fee Simon Mignolet cost to bring to Sunderland from St Truiden in 2010.

But the Italian is not expected to blossom at the Stadium of Light in the way the Belgian did.

Instead, he will be brought in to act as back-up to Keiren Westwood, who will be handed the first-team jersey in the wake of Mignolet’s departure and finally given a proper chance to prove himself.

Mannone was a £350,000 signing from Atalanta in 2005 but never really established himself at Arsenal and has been loaned out to Hull and Barnsley during his time in England.

Last season he made 13 appearances for the Gunners, considerably more than he has made in any previous campaign.

But Arsenal do not see him developing into a Champions League squad keeper, while Sunderland believe he is a reasonable acquisition as a more than capable deputy.

On those terms, a fee of £2m looks a fair price for both sides.

And it leaves Sunderland with a huge profit in their goalkeeping department, with Liverpool having paid £9m, rising to nearly £12m to secure the services of Mignolet.

That money is expected to be ploughed back into Paolo Di Canio’s transfer kitty this summer, giving the Black Cats greater room for manoeuvre within the newly-imposed financial fair play regulations.