Monday, January 30, 2023

£6m ‘world-class’ star Liverpool sold tipped to win Player of the Year

£6m ‘world-class’ star Liverpool sold tipped to win Player of the Year

The exceptional play of former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet at Club Brugge should make him the first goalkeeper to win the Jupiler League’s Golden Shoe since 1987, according to Belgian legends Jean-Marie Pfaff and Michel Preud’homme.

There are numerous examples in history of goalkeepers finding their stride after the age of 30. Edwin Van der Sar, for example, was arguably better at age 40 than he had been a decade earlier.

After entering his fourth decade, Gianluigi Buffon accumulated trophies at Juventus.

Mignolet, whose 35th birthday is approaching, is a major reason, if not the sole reason, why Club Brugge will play Champions League football after Christmas for the first time next month.

The former Sunderland goalkeeper kept an astounding five clean sheets in six group-stage games, eliminating Atletico Madrid along the way with truly “world-class” performances between the posts.

During 2022, he was equally impressive domestically. Mignolet’s vast experience and commanding presence led to a league and Super Cup double for Club Brugge.

And, according to two of Belgium’s greatest goalkeepers of all time, a place in the annals of history would be a fitting reward for a man who has earned every penny of his £6 million price tag and then some.

“Mignolet is head and shoulders above the rest,” says two-time European Goalkeeper of the Year Pfaff. “If Simon becomes my successor (and wins the Jupiler League Player of the Year), it would be greatly deserved. What he achieved this year was enormous.

“For me, he certainly deserves the Golden Shoe. Simon has contributed a lot to Club Brugge over the past year. He was a huge pillar of support with his experience and reliability.”

In recent seasons, Vincent Kompany, Axel Witsel, and Thorgan Hazard have each displayed the Golden Shoe, Belgium’s Player of the Year trophy. Since Preud’homme 36 years ago, no goalkeeper has claimed it.

“When I won the Golden Shoe in 1987, that was the beginning of the heyday of KV Mechelen,” Preud’homme himself says. “Mignolet, last season at Club Brugge, was comparable (to me).

“He is very strong in one-on-one situations. Very strong in the air. He also is strong on his line. Simon was instrumental in qualifying for the next round of the Champions League. He has achieved in one year (what I did in two).”

A first-ever Champions League quarterfinal match is not inconceivable for Club Brugge. Benfica are a formidable opponent, but this is one of the more winnable matches Mignolet and company could have drawn.

£6m ‘world-class’ star Liverpool sold tipped to win Player of the Year

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