By Harry Sykes

Aston Villa are in pole position to sign Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone in the January transfer window, according to a report.

Sky Italy journalist Gianluca Di Marzio claimed on his website on Monday that Mannone is looking for a new club in January after Jordan Pickford established himself as the new Black Cats No1.

It is said that Villa are the “likeliest destination” for Mannone because the Championship club are keen to sign him in a permanent deal rather than on a loan.

Di Marzio claim that current Villa custodian Pierluigi Gollini could leave the club in January to return to his native Italy even though he only joined in a £4million deal from Hellas Verona last summer.

This would pave the way for manager Steve Bruce to sign another goalkeeper as the club plan a promotion assault in the new year.

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Villa have been strongly linked with a loan move for Manchester United back-up keeper Sam Johnstone in January.

But the report from the reliable Di Marzio strongly suggest that Mannone is also on Bruce’s radar, as the ex-Sunderland boss appears ready to return to his former club for a player.

Former Arsenal keeper Mannone has not played for David Moyes’ side since 21 August due initially to an elbow injury and then to the form of Pickford, who has made a huge impression since stepping up from the youth ranks.

Gollini is the undisputed number one at Villa Park but has been criticised for a number of high profile errors this season and is in danger of losing his first team spot.

The 21-year-old has started 19 of the club’s 20 Championship matches, with his deputy Mark Bunn being in goal for the other clash.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, fans have reacted on Twitter as Bruce seals his first signing this month before the window even opens.