Emanuele Giaccherini wants Sunderland to bring on the competition for a starting spot, as the Black Cats look to boost their midfield options.
As reported yesterday, Sunderland have made an attacking midfielder their priority in the transfer market, once they conclude deals for Dutch international winger Jeremain Lens and Zenit St Petersburg centre-half Nicolas Lombaerts.
Sunderland were keen to land England international Stewart Downing to complement that duo, but the ex-Black Cats loanee is now on the verge of joining Championship side Middlesbrough.
However, while Sunderland are having to consider contingency options, head coach Dick Advocaat does now have Giaccherini available after the Italian international endured a miserable injury-hit campaign at the Stadium of Light last season.
During Giaccherini’s two years at Sunderland, the ex-Juventus man has been deployed in a variety of midfield roles with sporadic success.
But his favoured position has always been in a central, attacking role, and that’s where he is keen to hold down a place in the side, even if Sunderland do make the much-needed transfer breakthrough.
Giaccherini, who Advocaat has likened to a new signing, said: “If new players come here, it’s OK, I’ll welcome them.
“I like to fight for a starting place because that competition brings the best out of you. I need the competition.
“We’re in the Premier League and in the Premier League, there’s a lot of strong players.
“I’m working hard for the chance to start and I hope I can stay among the starting XI players.
“Yes, I want to be in the central three. That’s my position, both for Juventus and the national team.”
Giaccherini was limited to just eight Premier League appearances last season after a campaign scuppered by groin and ankle injuries.
But the 30-year-old – who remains happy to stay on Wearside – realises this is a crucial campaign for him, both on the domestic and international stage.
Giaccherini is determined to impress sufficiently for Sunderland to secure his place in the Italy squad for next summer’s European Championships after being axed at the final hurdle for the 2014 World Cup.
And he is clearly in the thinking of Italy boss Antonio Conte too after receiving a call-up at the end of last season, despite his injury troubles.
“I didn’t play for five or six months, but Conte wanted to see me,” added Giaccherini.
“He brought me in for the training, but not for the games, but that’s OK.
“He said to me that if I’m not ready until December, then that’s fine, it’s good for me.
“I’m working to play for Sunderland and if I can do that, then maybe I can go with the national team to the Euros.”