VITO Mannone has been rewarded for his Player of the Season performances at Sunderland with a new two-year deal.
The Italian, who had one year of his contract remaining, will now be at the Stadium of Light until 2017, with the club moving swiftly to tie down a player who has established himself as one of their prize assets over the last 12 months.
Mannone joined Sunderland from Arsenal in an initial two-year contract, with the Black Cats having the option to extend the contract by a further two years – an option they have now taken up.
And that mean the impending battle for the first-team gloves between Mannone and new signing Costel Pantilimon is set to be a feature at Sunderland for seasons to come.
Romanian international stopper Pantilimon, who had been at Premier League champions Manchester City since 2011 and who made 18 appearances for Manuel Pellegrini’s side last season, agreed a four-year deal with the Black Cats earlier this month.
And clearly the 6ft 8in Eastern European, who moved on under freedom of contract, has not come to the Stadium of Light to warm the bench.
His arrival put Mannone’s position at the club in the spotlight and sparked rumours in Italy that he wanted to leave Sunderland after just one season on Wearside.
But the 26-year-old contacted the Echo to completely scotch those rumours this week.
And now his long-term future has been decided with the news that he will be at Sunderland for the next three years of his career.
The club has not officially commented on the situation yet, but the Echo understands that the two-year extension has been activated and registered with the Premier League.
That will delight Mannone, who has made no secret of how happy he is on Wearside, how thrilled he was to be voted 2013-14 Player of the Season by fans and how satisfied he was to prove himself at Sunderland after years on the fringes of Arsenal’s first team.
He pointed out to the Echo earlier this week: “I love Sunderland and the Sunderland fans.
“I enjoyed last season and am looking forward to next season and hope we can reward the fans by winning something.”
The Black Cats, under head coach Gus Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton, are currently out to rectify the mistakes of the recent past, where players’ contracts were allowed to run down and players like Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley moved on for nothing.
In tying down Mannone early, they have avoided the risk of another highly-rated player slipping through their fingers at a later stage.