Sunderland keeper eyes Italy chance

Vito Mannone
Vito Mannone
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SUNDERLAND keeper Vito Mannone hopes his Premier League performances can propel him into the Italy squad.

The 26-year-old, who has seven U21 caps on his CV, has yet to make a senior international appearance for his country.

And the stopper admits that he felt a pang of jealousy when he saw his team-mates heading off on international duty after Sunderland’s win over Stoke City last weekend.

“A little bit I envy them,” Mannone told the Echo.

“I’m always wishing that good performances in the Premier League will be enough for somebody to have a look at me.

“Sometimes the lads are joking with me and say I’m not even an Italian any more!

“But I am, and I wish sometimes that this call will come and I can join as well.

“Sometimes you see the lads going and I stay here and enjoy my family and working hard. But it would be a good reward.”

Mannone’s way, like that every other Italian goalkeeper, is blocked by the colossal figure of Gianluigi Buffon.

The most capped player in Italy’s history with 143 call-ups for the Azzurri and at the age of 36, the Juventus legend still has a few years in his locker.

But Mannone would be content challenging the likes of 27-year-old Paris St-Germain keeper Salvatore Sirigu or 21-year-old Genoa stopper Mattia Perin for a place in the goalkeeping group.

And Sunderland’s current Player of the Season is hoping that continued good work in the Black Cats goal will eventually be noticed in his homeland.

“You can always do more, but at the end of the day, it’s about those people who need to watch me and appreciate what I need to do,” he said.

“I need to keep working myself and try to help this team get as many points as we can and then we will see.”

To achieve his international ambitions, Mannone needs to keep his number one spot at Sunderland, which inevitably means frustrating the hopes of the Black Cats’ Romanian international keeper Costel Pantilimon.

The 6ft 8ins East European, who joined Sunderland in the summer from Premier League champions Manchester City, has so far been unable to dislodge Mannone from the number one spot.

Former Arsenal keeper Mannone is familiar with this sort of intense competition for a place in the side but he says it helps when keepers have the character not to let it become personal.

And he says he has been pleased to find that he and Pantilimon have developed a good working relationship at the Academy of Light.

“It’s football,” he shrugged. “That’s the difference between good lads, and not.

“I’ve been with both of them in the past. Costel is a good lad, training hard and trying to push himself and improve himself, just as I am.

“We know that this is a world made of opportunities and chances.

“If you grab your chance, then it’s down to the manager.

“But I’ve never been angry with my team-mate, because it’s not him deciding whether I’m going on the pitch or not.”