Whilst Vito Mannone’s departure from Sunderland yesterday wasn’t unexpected, it was still tinged with sadness. Regardless of your opinion on his ability, nobody can deny that Mannone was a committed and hard-working player at Sunderland, and that is all that we can ever ask of any individual.
We moan about out of touch footballers that don’t buy into what our club is about but in Vito, we found an exception - the crowning moment of his career was that night at Old Trafford, sending Sunderland through to a cup final with a penalty save in front of 9000 adoring fans that sang his name louder and prouder than ever before. He loved us, and we loved him back in return.
But that was three and a half years ago. Things have changed and, sadly for Vito, his career nosedived considerably from that point onwards. Whilst he may have been a steady enough pair of hands for us in the Championship, the timing of him leaving just feels right.
Sentimentality might lead us to judge Vito slightly differently but it shouldn’t. He often struggled throughout his time here and was in and out of the side under a variety of managers who just weren’t certain of him as our first choice between the sticks.
The emergence of Jordan Pickford last year opened my eyes to just how far off the mark Mannone was at the top level, ability-wise. Placed side to side there was no comparison, and even with Pickford out of the door, in recent weeks, it has felt as though the time was right to move Vito along and bring in someone new.
Regardless, he’s gone and we now need to find someone to replace him. With our limited budget that could prove tricky.
Names like Anders Lindegaard, Cedric Carrasso, Shay Given and Victor Valdes are available for free and would provide us with experience in the position but I’m hoping we’re going to be more imaginative in our recruitment. Surely there are goalkeepers further down the leagues with immense potential that would appreciate a move to a club like Sunderland, and wouldn’t cost the earth?
We’ve taken a risk in selling Mannone without a replacement already lined up but I feel it’s a risk worth taking. I don’t mean to do Mannone a disservice, but I really haven’t been a fan of his in recent seasons and, at £2m, I think we’ve got the better end of the deal.