Sunderland's rebuilding plans continue apace with the Black Cats confirming Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone as their sixth summer signing.
The 25-year-old Italian has signed a two-year deal with the Wearsiders as backup for Keiren Westwood, who takes over as first-choice keeper after the departure of Simon Mignolet to Liverpool last month.
No fee has officially been announced but the former Italy Under 21 international is understood to have cost somewhere in the region of £2m.
And the Italian said of his new club: “The potential is incredible. I have come from a big club but to be honest, I don’t see any difference in the facilities.
“The base is there and I am really happy to be here. I waited a long time for an opportunity like Sunderland, and for me it is a great one.
“I’m very excited. I am here to work hard and to show what I can do.”
Mannone joined Arsenal as a teenager from Italian side Atalanta, but was only considered as cover for the likes of Manuel Almunia and Wojciech Szczesny, and went on to make just 15 appearances for the Gunners in eight years at the Emirates Stadium.
He had a loan stint at Barnsley in 2006 and two loan spells with Hull City, spending most of the 2010-11 season and the second half of the following campaign at the KC Stadium.
Mannone’s arrival follows those of Duncan Watmore, David Moberg Karlsson and the Bosman trio of Valentin Roberge, Cabral and Modibo Diakite.
Sunderland are also close to a number of other signings, with deals for
Argentian defender Gino Peruzzi, French right-back Benjamin Mendy and French midfielder El-Hadji Ba among those in the works.
Meanwhile, winger Adam Johnson insists Sunderland’s players have returned after their summer break ready for an intensive workout under fitness fanatic head coach Paolo Di Canio.
The majority of the players reported back to the Academy of Light yesterday to begin their preparations for the new season, and this weekend they will head off to Italy for a 10-day training camp.
And Johnson says Di Canio’s emphasis on physical fitness will ensure they go into the Premier League campaign in tip-top shape.
Johnson said: “It’s going to be interesting. Pre-season is going to be probably quite tough and a lot different to what we’ve been used to.
“It’s all new sorts of things for us to look forward to and I know we’re going to come back really fit for the start of the season.”
After their trip to Italy, Sunderland will return to Wearside before jetting off to Hong Kong to take part in the Barclays Asia Trophy which runs from July 24-27. Sunderland will play Spurs in the semi-final of the competition, before facing either Manchester City or South China on finals day.
“It’s good for us to play in the heat for our fitness and before the season starts and it’s competitive as well, and that’s what you need in pre-season, so all aspects of it are really important,” said the England international, who played in the Far East with Manchester City last summer before making a £10m move to Sunderland. “Going out there and playing against top teams as well can only do us good ahead of the start of the season. Pre-seasons have always been seen as a lot of hard work and a bit of a nightmare. But when you get to go all over the world and get the lads together, it’s not too bad.
“The fans out there [in Asia] don’t get to see us that often in person so when they do it’s nice for them and in my experience of tournaments, the fans don’t keep quiet the whole game. They’re just so excited to see us and be at one of the games and so it’s obviously good to put on a good show for them.”
Meanwhile, Championship side Blackburn Rovers are understood to be favourites to sign former Sunderland defender Matt Kilgallon.
Kilgallon, released by the Black Cats at the end of last month and has attracted interest from Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City, but the 29-year-old looks destined to move to Ewood Park. Sunderland signed Kilgallon from Sheffield United in January 2010 but he was rapidly discarded by then-boss Steve Bruce and went on to play in just 26 games in his time on Wearside.