When Costel Pantilimon moved from Manchester City, you sensed it would be to become an undisputed number one.
After all, he had shown in glimpses at the Etihad that he had what it takes to play regularly for a top-flight side. Indeed, during Joe Hart’s enforced absence at the beginning of last season, the Romanian stopper excelled.
When Sunderland signed the 27-year-old on a four-year deal, it seemed like an astute piece of business, but a slightly baffling move for the player himself, who appeared to be swapping competition for Hart with competition for another impressive ‘keeper in the form of Vito Mannone.
For a while, rumours suggested the latter could leave the Stadium of Light this summer. But having denied those claims, Mannone has now put pen to paper on a new two-year deal with the Black Cats.
So what next for Pantilimon?
The new Sunderland man played 18 times for City last season, the majority in cup matches and during Hart’s spell out of the team. In contrast, Mannone featured 36 times for Gus Poyet’s side last season. And now that the former Arsenal man has signed a new deal, ending the rumours surrounding his future, Pantilimon could have a fight every bit as tough as the one to dislodge Hart.
Mannone’s new deal was reportedly triggered automatically due to the number of games he played in the last campaign.
And yet Poyet now has a big decision to make, with two quality goalkeepers at his disposal and one in Pantilimon who may continue as a reluctant back-up when many thought those days were behind him.