Pantilimon: It’s a straight fight to be Sunderland No.1

Costel Pantilimon
Costel Pantilimon
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COSTEL PANTILIMON insists he and Vito Mannone are starting from scratch in the battle to be Sunderland number one.

Fans favourite Mannone was crowned Sunderland Player of the Year last season after the Italian keeper enjoyed a memorable debut campaign at the Stadium of Light.

But the Bosman capture of Pantilimon from Manchester City has thrown Mannone’s place in Gus Poyet’s plans into doubt, with the Romanian international understood to have been signed with a view to being first-choice stopper in the new season.

Pantilimon is not taking anything for granted though and believes every member of Sunderland’s squad is fighting for a place during pre-season, with the Black Cats’ friendly programme getting underway against Darlington 1883 at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park tomorrow.

“At this moment, I think everyone is fighting for their position,” said Pantilimon, who spent three years at the Etihad.

“There’s a long period until we start the Premier League.

“It’s normal for everyone to work hard, train hard, and after that, we’ll see what happens.

“I think everyone wants to be in the first XI.

“We’ll see. Vito is a good guy and a good keeper. I know that.

“But whatever happens, it’s important that it helps the team.

“It’s not just competition for us (him and Vito) it’s everyone in the team.

“At this moment, no-one is in the starting XI.”

City were thought to have been keen to keep Pantilimon at the Etihad as back-up to England international Joe Hart, yet the 27-year-old rejected the chance to remain with the Premier League champions.

And Pantilimon insists that once he had held discussions with Sunderland head coach Poyet during the summer, he had no hesitation in agreeing to a four-year Stadium of Light deal.

“I heard about the interest after I finished the season; that the manager wanted me here,” added Pantilimon, who has completed almost a fortnight of pre-season training with the Black Cats.

“It was great news for me.

“I hope to enjoy my time here and get good results.

“It’s been good so far.

“The weather’s been nice and the training’s been very hard, but we know that is good for us and our preparations.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland have been linked with wantaway Atletico Madrid winger Cristian Rodriguez.

Reports in Spain have indicated that Sunderland have been pursuing Uruguay international Rodriguez throughout the summer after the 28-year-old has grown frustrated with his lack of games for the La Liga champions.

Rodriguez featured in all four of Uruguay’s games at the World Cup, with Sunderland on the look-out for fresh faces out wide after losing the services of on-loan Liverpool forward Fabio Borini at the end of last season, albeit the Black Cats are still keen to re-sign the Italian.