EMANUELE GIACCHERINI insists he wants to remain at Sunderland this summer.
Giaccherini played a key role in Sunderland’s escape from the drop after making significant contributions from the bench at Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and in the home win over Cardiff.
But the Italian international has started just once in the Premier League since New Year’s Day and that has thrown question marks over his long-term future at the Stadium of Light.
There has been plenty of interest in Giaccherini from his homeland, with the likes of Genoa and Fiorentina both linked with the 29-year-old, who arrived on Wearside in a £6.5million deal last summer.
But the former Juventus man is still eager to make the grade in the Premier League and hopes he will reap the rewards from a steep learning curve after completing his first season at Sunderland.
“Now I can say for sure, this is a more difficult competition - there are players and teams of the absolute highest calibre.” Giaccherini told the Italian press today.
“Manchester United are seventh here not just as a result of their own errors, but for the great competition there is. The Premier League is really exciting.
“My future? Yes I really want to play here again. I want to stay and do even better, with the experience accumulated.
“I still have a three-year contract, I’m fine where I am, but let’s see what will happen. I will speak with Poyet and we will decide together.”
Giaccherini was a regular during both Paolo Di Canio and Kevin Ball’s tenures at the start of the season, and continued to keep his place in the early stages of Gus Poyet’s reign.
But since the turn of the year, he has been limited to a fringe role, albeit he made a big impact from the bench during the run-in.
The winger set up both of Connor Wickham’s goals at Manchester City, and provided another assist for the striker in the 4-0 win over Cardiff after scoring himself.
He said: “I would say that at first it went well, perhaps not great, but overall it has been a good year. Eventually we reached our objective - we are safe from relegation. Through thick and thin.
“We reached the final of the League Cup, we were in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, in short, we fought on several fronts.
“The truth is that this Sunderland has been dismantled and rebuilt. We had to play with many teammates not knowing each other. We could not find the mechanisms to our play and Di Canio paid for this.
“I was playing well at the worst moment for the team, I had space and continuity until earlier this year, when, after some tactical tests, I was on the bench when the team managed a short series of victories.
“I ended up in the stands, but I have always worked in silence. I decided to bide my time. Then things came to me - against Chelsea it was the turning point for our survival.
“Then a goal and assist against Cardiff. In short, I gave my contribution to our stay in the Premier League.
The big question now though is whether Giaccherini’s bit-part role at Sunderland will cost him a place in Italy’s World Cup squad.
Giaccherini has continued to be a regular in the Azzurri set-up since joining Sunderland, but there have been suggestions in Italy that Verona midfielder Romulo could be preferred by boss Cesare Prandelli for next month’s tournament.
“Prandelli knows me like few others, he knows the player that I am,” added Giaccherini.
“He called me to the national team practically against criticism from all, he gave me every confidence and even in making my debut against Spain in Euro 2012.
“I can say this - I chose England and have had some difficulties, I do not hide it. But I have not had a wasted season, I am fine now, physically I am ready.”