Paolo Di Canio says handing Jozy Altidore a second chance in England was a “no risk” move – and has backed his “perfect modern footballer” to hit 15 goals this season.
Altidore warmed up for the season by striking a spectacular hat-trick as the United States overcame Bosnia in Sarajevo. But Di Canio – who watched all of his internationals from the comfort of his training ground office last night – said he was not surprised at the latest example of the striker’s quality.
Having paid £6million to secure his services, Di Canio has no hesitation about hailing him as the perfect fit to spearhead his new-look Black Cats.
The Sunderland boss has developed a system over the summer that he insists will see his team attack more and they sourced Altidore because he was physically strong enough to lead the line as well as possessing the technical ability to link up play with the midfield.
The fact that he has “learned the game” by travelling around Europe since his first stint with Hull also gives him a burning desire to prove his critics wrong – something that he shares with Di Canio.
“I don’t hope he will be a success – I am sure he will be a success. With his characteristics he will score many goals,” he said.
“He can play very well for the team and can score lots of goals. His main part is to score goals and to help the others.
“He is a modern footballer, like you saw last night. He can make lovely movements and From Back Page
we expect that he will score many goals for us. I don’t know a number, but it won’t be two obviously.
“Maybe 15 or 17. He will do it if he uses his energy like he did last night in the national team. He has desire and pride and I think this environment here will help him. We spent a good amount of money on him, he was not a free transfer.”
Di Canio’s summer “revolution” – it is a word that he uses continually – has seen him bring in 10 players and there are more arrivals in the pipeline.
Some have been free transfers, but Altidore is one of four who has cost Sunderland nearly £30million. Di Canio sees their combined quality as key to taking the Black Cats on and says he does not consider Altidore’s experience at Hull as a negative.
“We brought in four or five players and a few free agents but three or four specifically we had to spend on,” he said.
“We could have been lucky, gone to South America and got a free agent (but we didn’t). This is a player who did not have a fantastic experience three years ago at Hull, but he was young and in which environment? We don’t know. It wasn’t top level, but he left, grew up and went around Europe.
“He finished last year with a very good goals tally in a different league. But you don’t score those numbers of goals if you are not quality.”
Sunderland released their squad numbers yesterday, handing Altidore the number 17, while Steven Fletcher – likely to be missing until the start of September at least – was given nine. There is no doubt who Di Canio sees as leading the line in the short-term, however.
“He is the kind of quality I need,” he said. “He is the size I need. He is a modern footballer. He jumps hard and he is an animal. He attacks every space and his first touch is good.
“He is fantastic finisher and that is a good mixture. We will play good football to help him to score and he is going to have a big part to play this year.
“All the signals that we have seen are positive and Wednesday night (for the United States) was an example.”
While Fletcher and Altidore’s numbers hinted at their importance to the team, Lee Cattermole lost his favoured number six and is now 33, while Phil Bardsley – whose broken foot is likely to mean he will remain at Sunderland in the short-term – was not given a squad number.