The FA Cup final is likely to be Costel Pantilimon’s last game for Manchester City. The club’s No 2 keeper, who will replace Joe Hart for the showpiece against Wigan on Saturday, feels that at 26 he needs to find a team where he is first choice.
“I am happy here but it is normal that I want to play regularly,” he said. “The technical staff knows that after the season is finished I want to leave. Those discussions will come after the season. I don’t know if Saturday will be my last game; it depends on what happens.”
Despite conceding only one goal in Manchester City’s run to the FA Cup final, Pantilimon has lost his place as Romania’s first-choice keeper and has been urged by the country’s manager, Victor Piturca, to find more regular football.
Although Pantilimon’s club manager, Roberto Mancini, guaranteed him a starting role in Manchester City’s domestic cup fixtures this season, he has yet to play a Premier League game.
“The manager of the national team tells me every time I speak to him: ‘Please try to play more’,” Pantilimon said. “It is important for my country as well as my career. I am young ÔÇô not 35 and waiting to finish. My agent will discuss it with the manager and we will see what happens.”
Nevertheless, Pantilimon said he had no regrets about signing a contract that has three years still to run, after coming to Eastlands from Politehnica Timisoara in 2011. “You get one chance and when a club like Manchester City wants you, you have to take it,” he said. “I knew Joe was a very good keeper, the England No 1. I took the risk because it was an opportunity to be at a top club.
“I still think it was a good choice. I have been waiting for my chance and now I am in an FA Cup final.”
City will play two pre-season friendlies in South Africa in July, with the second coming on Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday on 18 July. The outgoing league champions did not name their opponents or the venues.