SIMON Mignolet and Sebastian Larsson both plan to see what Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland overhaul brings before deciding on their own Wearside futures.
The pair are currently on international duty.
Despite his own personal success, Belgian goalkeeper Mignolet has admitted he did not enjoy constantly battling relegation last season, while Swedish midfielder Larsson accepts that with 12 months left on his contract, his future may be somewhat out of his hands.
But both appear reluctant to cut their ties with the club. Arsenal are said to be considering Mignolet as the solution to their long-standing goalkeeping problem, while Liverpool have emerged as rivals as they prepare for the loss of José Reina.
But Mignolet says he has had no contact from potential suitors, and is hoping manager Di Canio can improve the team enough to make staying a realistic option. “I am ambitious, and I read the Press as you do,” he said when asked about a potential move.
“It has been a difficult season with Sunderland. It’s not much fun to play bottom of the League, and I think Sunderland will know they have to change something to prevent another season like that.
“The manager wants to change the team for the better. Let’s hope he can do that next season.”
Mignolet was careful not to commit himself one way or another and it may be there is a reluctant parting of the ways. The 24-year old is his country’s second choice behind Thibaut Courtois, and will realise joining a more high-profile club – particularly if, like Arsenal, they play in the Champions League – will improve his chances of changing that.
Likewise, the Black Cats may have to accept they are better reinvesting a possible £6.5m fee than holding back the player.
But when the suggestion was made by agent Guy Vandersmissen in February that Mignolet could be forced to move on for the sake of his career, the player was very quick to contact then-manager Martin O’Neill and tell him that was not the case. “I have read about it (the speculation), but I haven’t heard anything (official),” he said. “I know there has been talk about Arsenal, but I haven’t heard anything or received a phone call from Arsène Wenger. I will stay calm and focused on the Belgium games, and after that, go on holiday with my girlfriend. We will see what happens.”
Di Canio is certainly determined to revamp his squad having lined up moves for out-of-contract players Modibo Diakité, Valentin Roberge, Cabral and El-Hadji Ba, as well as signing Altrincham youngster Duncan Watmore. They are also thought to be in discussions to sign Tigre left-back Lucas Orban. And while Sunderland finished just one place above the relegation zone, Mignolet’s own game improved tremendously.
“I am happy with my season,” he said. “I played 38 (league) matches. Few players can say they did that in a Premier League season.
“I also managed 11 clean sheets, which is not bad if you’re playing at the bottom of the division. To do that, you have to be mentally strong, and I think it shows I have progressed a lot as a goalkeeper.”
Meanwhile, Larsson expects either to extend his contract or be sold this summer.
“It will probably be one or the other,” he admitted. “I went as a Bosman last time and it is perhaps not very likely to happen twice in a row. I like it there and I will not be looking for a move in any way.
“I have not thought about the future, I have one year left and we have a new coach. I may take it easy during the summer and hear his ideas. I got a lot of confidence when he came in, but I do not know his plans for me.”