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The Italian has made an encouraging start to life on Wearside and is already making plans for the summer with the Maritimo defender set to sign on a free transfer

EXCLUSIVE
By Duncan Castles

Paolo Di Canio has initiated his planned overhaul of Sunderland's playing resources by setting up a close-season transfer of Maritimo centre-back Valentin Roberge.

The 25-year-old has agreed to move to the Premier League side under freedom of contract when his current deal with the Portuguese club expires at the end of the season.

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Fast over the ground and comfortable carrying the ball out of defence, Roberge has spent three seasons in Portugal's Primeira Liga with Maritimo as a first-choice centre-back.

The defender spent his teenage years with Guingamp and Paris Saint-Germain before a two-season spell in Greece with Aris, yet is relatively unknown in his native country.
    
Controversially employed as a replacement for Martin O'Neill, Di Canio has eased Sunderland's relegation concerns by winning two of his four Premier League fixtures since his appointment on March 31.

With three fixtures remaining, his new club holds a five-point lead over 18th-placed Wigan and a substantial goal-difference advantage over Aston Villa and Newcastle.
    
As a condition of taking over at Sunderland, the Italian sought, and was granted, full control over the club's senior player recruitment.

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