Costel Pantilimon determined to win the battle to become Sunderland's number one

New signing Costel Pantilimon has his heart set on becoming Sunderland's first choice goalkeeper - and winning back his place in the Romania team

David Rogers/Getty Images Costel Pantilimon
Costel Pantilimon

New boy Costel Pantilimon has made it clear he intends to claim the number one shirt at Sunderland.

Goalkeeper Pantilimon has agreed to join the Black Cats on a Bosman free transfer on July 1, when his contract at champions Manchester City expires.

Pantilimon’s arrival immediately put a question mark over the future of last season’s first choice Vito Mannone, who has become a popular figure on Wearside and was voted the supporters’ Player of the Year in his first season at the club.

But – after spending two years in the shadow of England stopper Joe Hart at City – Pantilimon insists he has come to Sunderland to play regular first team football in a bid to regain his place in the Romanian national team, coached by Victor Piturca.

Pantilimon has been capped 19 times by his country, but lost his place as Romania’s number one in November when he was left out of the squad for the two-legged World Cup play-off against Greece – a tie that ended Romania’s hopes of an appearance in the finals.

“I spoke to Mr Piturca recently,” said Pantilimon “It was very important for me to play every game, and now I have found this solution [moving to Sunderland].

“I want very much to return to the national team goal.

“To be first choice is very important to me, which is why I chose a club where I was wanted and where I had a chance to play.”

That ambition will put Pantilimon and Mannone in direct competition when the players return for pre-season training at the start of July.

And while Pantilimon respects his rival, he is determined to make the position his own.

“Mannone is a good keeper, who played well in the previous season, but my goal is to earn my place in the team,” he said.

“I will give everything and work hard for the Sunderland owner [Ellis Short].”

Meanwhile, Sunderland are set to play Spanish side Real Betis in a pre-season friendly on Wearside on Thursday, August 7 according to the Spanish club, although the Black Cats have yet to confirm it.

However, they have anounced details of three pre-season games in Portugal. The Black Cats will spend six days at a training camp on the Algarve, arriving on July 28 and returning on August 3.

The opposition for the first game has yet to be announced, although the game will take place on Tuesday, July 29, at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira.

The following night they play Portuguese Primeira Liga giants Benfica at the Estadio Municipal de Portimao (kick-off 8.45pm local time).

And the final game sees them return to the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira to face top flight outfit Vitoria Setubal on Saturday, August 2 (8pm local time).


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