Former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone shares his experiences at the club, adjusting to life in London, and the influence of Arsène Wenger on his career.
Former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone reminisced about his time at the club in an interview with GFFN, discussing the challenges of moving to London at a young age, and the profound impact Arsène Wenger had on his life and career.
Living the Dream at Arsenal
Mannone described joining Arsenal as a “dream come true,” coming shortly after losing his father. He found himself training with legendary players like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Robert Pirès. The move also meant adapting to a new culture and learning English quickly.
“It was a dream come true at the time,” Mannone said when asked about moving to Arsenal at such a young age.
“It was special, because it was a difficult time in my life, when I had lost my father, and the month after that I was training with the Invincibles. At the end of the day, I was a kid, and I found myself training with guys like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pirès!
“In terms of my life outside of football, I had gone from Italy to London, to a new culture, I had to learn English quickly and a take on a lot of new things. It was a very special moment in my life.”
Wenger’s Support and Influence
Mannone credits Wenger for his professional career, expressing gratitude for the support he received from the former Arsenal manager. Wenger recognised Mannone’s need for his mother’s presence during a challenging time and ensured they had an apartment together.
The goalkeeper also cherishes the opportunities he had to play in the Premier League and Champions League under Wenger’s guidance.
“First of all, he gave me a professional career,” Mannone said.
“He believed in me when I was a 16-year-old goalkeeper. He was very intelligent and open – not just in giving me a contract, but also beyond. At the time, I needed my mother, because it was just me and her when my father died.
“They gave me an apartment to stay with my mother straight away, usually when you’re a young player, you go to another family, you can’t have your own place straight away.
“He also gave me my debuts in the Premier League and in the Champions League – I was always proud to play for Arsenal, to be at such an amazing club.
“Of course, I would have liked more! He [Wenger] said it himself, I was close to getting more chances, maybe to become number one – but that’s the way football goes, there can only be one starting goalkeeper.
“At the time, we were three young goalkeepers fighting for the one spot, and it was never easy. But I grew up, I gained some experience and played some big games for Arsenal.”
Staying in Touch with Wenger
Mannone also revealed that he still maintains contact with Wenger, sharing text messages and meeting him occasionally. Their most recent encounter occurred when Mannone joined Lorient after a stint at Monaco.
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Tell me more about Vito Mannone’s career
Born on March 2, 1988, in Desio, Italy, Mannone began his football journey with local clubs before joining the Atalanta youth academy.
In 2005, at the age of 17, he moved to England to join Arsenal. During his time with the Gunners, Mannone played as a backup goalkeeper, making a limited number of first-team appearances. He spent time on loan at Barnsley and Hull City, where he gained valuable experience and playing time.
In 2013, Mannone signed with Sunderland, where he became the first-choice goalkeeper. He made over 80 appearances for the club and played a key role in helping Sunderland avoid relegation during the 2013-14 season. Mannone won the Sunderland Player of the Year award in 2014 as well.
In 2017, Mannone joined Championship side Reading, where he played for two seasons before moving to Minnesota United FC in Major League Soccer (MLS) on loan in 2019. In Minnesota, he quickly established himself as a key player, earning the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
After his loan spell in the United States, Mannone joined Ligue 1 side AS Monaco in August 2020. However, he served primarily as a backup goalkeeper and moved to FC Lorient, another French Ligue 1 team, in 2021, where the 35-year-old remains with a contract that runs until the summer.
Throughout his career, Mannone has also represented Italy at various youth levels, including the U21 national team, but never made any senior appearances for the Italian national team.