MARTIN O’Neill is eager to tie down Simon Mignolet to a new long-term deal as interest builds in the Sunderland stopper.
Only Manchester City’s Joe Hart has kept more Premier League clean sheets than Mignolet this season, and the keeper’s performances have not gone unnoticed, with both Manchester United and Arsenal monitoring the progress of the 24-year-old.
Mignolet still has another two years left to run on his Sunderland contract and has persistently pledged his happiness with life at the Stadium of Light.
But after talks over a new contract were first broached last October, O’Neill is now hopeful of making progress to stave off the Belgian’s suitors.
Asked whether contract talks were on the agenda, O’Neill said: “Absolutely – very much so.
“Simon still has two more years left to run on his current contract, but we would like to do something and that is something I want to push forward.
“If anyone deserves a new deal this season it is Simon, without a doubt. He has been fantastic for us.”
Mignolet was perturbed this week when comments from his Belgium-based representative were taken as a sign by some media outlets that the stopper wanted to leave Wearside to boost his international hopes.
Chelsea’s Thibault Courtois – in the midst of a second season-long loan deal at Atletico Madrid – has been preferred to Mignolet for Belgium’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
But Mignolet was keen to immediately set the record straight with O’Neill and outlined his desire to remain with Sunderland before the Black Cats boss was even aware of the agent’s comments.
“He’s a really genuine lad,” added O’Neill.
“He asked to see me this week to talk to me about the stories in the media, and at that stage I hadn’t seen them.
“But he felt things were being twisted a little bit and he wanted to let me know that.
“I can’t prevent other teams being interested in him, if that’s the case.
“But I think that, for him, it is really important that he is playing regularly and things might change.
“You never know, we might become as good as Atletico Madrid in the next few years!”