JAAP Stam believes Vito Mannone is the prefect replacement for Ali Al-Habsi – but insists the new Reading FC signing faces a battle for the No.1 jersey.

Mannone penned a three-year deal at Madejski Stadium yesterday after Royals agreed a fee with Sunderland in the region of £2m.

The 29-year-old Italian completed his medical at Hogwood Park then flew straight to Holland to link up with the Reading squad for the remainder of their pre-season tour.

But while Royals may have smashed their transfer record for a goalkeeper, Stam insists former Arsenal stopper Mannone will not be an automatic choice between the sticks.

Finnish international Anssi Jaakkola also has his heart set on filling Al-Habsi's boots, while youngsters George Legg and Luke Southwood give Stam more options in that position.

Stam explained: "We have some outstanding young keepers at the club but, with Ali leaving, we wanted some extra goalkeeping experience to join Anssi in the first team squad, and Mannone is a great goalkeeper.

"He has played at the highest level for both Arsenal and Sunderland and he has also played a lot of games in the Championship whilst on loan with Hull.

“Vito has the abilities we are looking for – he is comfortable playing the ball with his feet and can make the right choices at the right time within our system.”

But Stam insisted Mannone will not be guaranteed a place in his starting line-up and will have to fight it out with Jaakkola for the No.1 jersey.

"Of course, he now needs to challenge for a place in the first team,” added Stam, who also sent Jonathan Bond to Peterborough United on loan for the season.

“Anssi wants to fight for a place as well, of course, but we're very glad to have Vito at the club."

Reading Chronicle:

Ex-Sunderland stopper Vito Mannone thwarts Tottenham's Son Heung-Min during a Premier League match last season. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Stam was forced to look for a new keeper when two-time Player of the Year Ali Al-Habsi made shock transfer to Al-Hilal earlier this week after the Saudi giants triggered a £300,000 release clause.

He was heavily linked with Newcastle United stopper Karl Darlow, but a £5m price tag pushed the 24-year-old out of Reading's range.

Royals were also interested in Fulham's David Button, though sources in London believe they were priced out of the market by one of their chief Championship rivals.

It is understood Royals also saw a £1.2m bid for Hull City keeper Eldin Jakupovic rejected before the Swiss international signed for Premier League Leicester City yesterday.

By then Stam had already switched his focus to Mannone before Sunderland boss Simon Grayson confirmed Reading had tabled an offer for the Italian stopper.

"We’ve agreed a fee with Reading,” Grayson told the Sunderland Echo. “The player is going into the last year of his contract and when a suitable offers comes in you have to consider it.

"We’ve made it clear to Vito it was up to him what he wanted to do, he felt for his long-term security it was probably best to go.

"With any player, when they go into the last year of their contract, you’ve got to consider it.”

Mannone lost his spot in the Sunderland first-team to Jordon Pickford last year and was keen on a move away from the Stadium of Light.

However, Mannone looked set to become Grayson's number one this season when Pickford was sold to Everton in a record-breaking deal.

But the former Arsenal keeper opted for a fresh start with Royals and was pulled out of Sunderland's squad for a pre-season friendly against Hartlepool on Tuesday.

He becomes Reading's third summer signing after Wolves striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Ajax Jong forward, Pelle Clement.

Reading have also been heavily linked with Swansea City winger, Modou Barrow, though the Chronicle understands Stam has now cooled his interest in the 24-year-old Gambia international.