Paolo Di Canio has moved to reassure Sunderland supporters alarmed by Tuesday night's £9m sale of Simon Mignolet to Liverpool.
"Our aim is to build a competitive squad for the new season and this deal will give us further ability to strengthen the side," said Sunderland's manager after thanking the Belgium international for his heroics at the Stadium of Light last season. "I would like to assure our fans that there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes."
Di Canio appeared to have Celtic's Fraser Forster lined up as Mignolet's most likely replacement but now it seems that the Republic of Ireland's Keiren Westwood, the outgoing goalkeeper's former deputy, will be given a chance to prove himself next season.
Sunderland still plan to sign another keeper and are monitoring Heerenveen's 24-year-old Swede, Kristoffer Nordfelt, who due to a release clause in his contract is available for £2m as well as PSV Eindhoven's 22-year-old Holland Under-21 international Jeoren Zoet.
Mignolet – who becomes the first Belgian to play for Liverpool – joined Sunderland from Sint-Truiden for £2m three years ago, swiftly establishing himself in the team. Di Canio had hoped to keep him but, with two years left on his contract and no agreement reached over an extension, the Wearsiders were unwilling to let their prize asset depreciate in value. The 25-year-old is moving for an initial £9m with the fee potentially rising to more than £11m.
"I'm delighted we have been able to sign one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League," said Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's manager. The feeling was mutual. "Liverpool's a big club," said Mignolet who believes the switch to Anfield will enhance his chances of being his country's first-choice keeper at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.
"To be the first Belgian to play for Liverpool is a big thing. This is a big challenge for me but that's what you want. You want to play in the big games, you want to play for a big club and to play with pressure."