Just three days after Ali Al-Habsi secured his move to Al-Hilal, Reading have found his replacement between the sticks at the Madejski Stadium by bringing in Vito Mannone from Sunderland on a three year contract.
As usual, the official club statement does not disclose the fee, but various reports following the rumour breaking yesterday indicate that it is around £2 million. Black Cats boss Simon Grayson revealed that the 29-year-old “felt for his long-term security it was probably best to go” as he was entering the last year of his deal in the North East.
Born in Italy, Mannone has played in England since 2005, when he signed for Arsenal as a 17-year-old from Atalanta. Yet he would only make a total of 23 appearances for the Gunners, finding more playing time out on loan at Barnsley and Hull City before permanently departing North London in 2013 for Sunderland.
His first season at the Stadium of Light was probably his best, as he made 29 Premier League appearances and played a key role in the team’s run to the League Cup final - saving two penalties in the semi-final shoot-out against Manchester United. At the end of the campaign he was named as the Black Cats’ Player of the Year.
However since then he had to settle for largely being second choice between the sticks, deputising for both Costel Pantilimon and Jordan Pickford. In Berkshire though, Mannone is fully expected to be first choice but will face competition from Anssi Jaakkola and youngster George Legg.
On the new signing, Jaap Stam told the official club website:
"We have some outstanding young keepers at the club but, with Ali leaving, we wanted some extra goalkeeping experience to join Anssi in the first team squad. And Mannone is a great goalkeeper.
"He has played at the highest level for both Arsenal and Sunderland and he has also played a lot of games in the Championship whilst on loan with Hull. And Vito has the abilities we are looking for - he is comfortable playing the ball with his feet and can make the right choices at the right time within our system.
"Of course, he now needs to challenge for a place in the first team - a place that Anssi wants to fight for as well, of course. But we're very glad to have him at the club."
CEO Ron Gourlay also gave his thoughts:
“It was very important that we acted swiftly to bring a new goalkeeper to the club, but it was absolutely critical that any new signing was the right fit for Reading. In Vito, we believe we have acquired an excellent keeper with a real hunger to return to the Premier League as a Royal.”
Finally, Brian Tevreden said of the signing:
“I am very pleased that Vito has agreed to be a part of what we’re trying to achieve here in Reading. He is a highly-rated goalkeeper with Premier League, Champions League, Cup Final and, importantly, valuable Championship experience - and I’m sure he will be a great signing for this football club.”