Vito Mannone has urged his new Sunderland team-mates to learn all they can from Paolo Di Canio after watching him from the stands as a child.
The Italian keeper grew up on the outskirts of Milan and saw Di Canio play during his spell with AC Milan. As a result, he is well aware of what his compatriot was capable of on the field, and is confident his knowledge and capacity for hard work will serve the Black Cats well.
Mannone told the club's official website: "I remember [Paolo] playing for Milan. He had a really good career with a few Italian clubs and in the UK as well, of course. He was a great player and you can only learn from great players."
He added: "He did great work at Swindon and a good job here at Sunderland also after he joined. Of course, he is a hard worker and that's what I am too. It's something good to have in common.
"I know how we work in our country - we like to work hard. Obviously it will be a good challenge and there will be some good work ahead of us."
Di Canio's players returned for pre-season training on Wednesday with a clutch of new faces, including Mannone, among them. However, their summer recruitment mission is far from over and work is continuing behind the scenes to finalise a series of deals.
Le Havre full-back Benjamin Mendy and midfield team-mate El-Hadji Ba are understood to be close to formalising their moves to Wearside, while Sunderland are also edging closer to deals for Velez Sarsfield defender Gino Peruzzi and Panathinaikos midfielder Charalampos Mavrias.
Altidore, who had a spell at Hull earlier in his career, has repeatedly spoken of his happiness at AZ and shown little sign, in public at least, of looking for a move. His current employers, however, seem resigned to losing him, although they are looking for his full market value if that is to be the case.
The Black Cats' initial bid was summarily dismissed and it remains to be seen whether or not owner and chairman Ellis Short is prepared to match the 10 million euro (£8.6million) the Eredivisie side are reportedly looking.