PAOLO DI CANIO says Sunderland will fight tooth and nail to avoid key players leaving Wearside this summer – and that includes Simon Mignolet.
After inheriting a squad that finished fourth bottom in the Premier League and avoided relegation by a whisker, the Italian promised a close-season overhaul.
That will mean – if he gets his wish – that a host of players will leave and even more will arrive.
But he has no intention of dismantling his entire squad and has already identified players whose retention he see as vital to the Black Cats being able to make progress in the 2013-14 campaign.
Among the players he will fight hard to keep are hot property Mignolet (pictured, below), Stephane Sessegnon, leading scorer Steven Fletcher and stand-in skipper John O’Shea.
“It is clear that we have to bring in players over the summer – half-a-dozen, maybe more,” said Di Canio.
“We finished near the relegation zone and so it is obvious that we need to make changes to make sure that we are not in this situation next season.
“But at the same time we already have some quality players here, and I want them to stay.
“I want to build something here at Sunderland and take the club forward – that is my mission. So the last thing I want to do is to let any of our quality players leave.
“Simon is a top class goalkeeper,” he said. “He’s very important to us.”
Mignolet is Sunderland’s biggest asset after another stunning season between the sticks. His efforts were crucial to preserving one of the best goal differences in the bottom half of the Premier League – giving Sunderland encouragement in the darkest days of last season that they would avoid the drop.
And it is no surprise to see that his sustained excellence has already seen him linked with both Liverpool and Arsenal, with the Gunners being suggested as likely to sign him this summer if they follow through on a potential £10m bid.
But Mignolet still has two years left on his current contract and the club has opened talks with his representatives regarding a new improved deal – which would not be the first time he has been offered improved terms on Wearside.
Mignolet is happy on Wearside and has not looked to leave the club since joining from St Truiden for a bargain £2m in 2010.
He is currently with the Belgium squad in America preparing for Wednesday’s friendly against the USA in Cleveland, Ohio, before Belgium are face a World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Brussels a week on Friday.