Interview: Simon Mignolet on his debut season at Liverpool and Belgium's World Cup chances
Simon Mignolet has been an absolute revelation since he moved to the Premier League from his native Belgium back in 2010.
The shot stopper has gained praise from some notable players and managers for his skills between the sticks and is showing no signs of slowing down. The 26-year-old made his big move to Liverpool last year and endeared himself to the fans on his debut against Stoke City with a remarkable performance which included a penalty save in the final minutes of the game.
Mignolet has already been capped 14 times for Belgium and will certainly travel with the team to Brazil for the upcoming World Cup.
We at Sportskeeda managed to have a chat with the goalkeeper on a number of topics.
You started your career as an outfield player. What made you take up goalkeeping?
When I was young I played outfield with my youth academy and that didn’t turn out really well so I changed to goalkeeping quite late when I was 14 or 15 years old and I went to a local club [Sint-Truiden]. My dad always used to be a goalkeeper when he was young and he thought that I had the talent to become a goalkeeper too so he said to me “Well, why don’t you try being a goalkeeper?”
And that’s probably my best choice in life so far. So I made the decision when I was 15 to be a goalkeeper and after that it went really quick. I played with Belgium for the first time when I was 18 and I’m only 26 now so everything is going really quickly.
You took almost no time to adapt to the Premier League. Were there any coaches/players who helped you adjust?
Well, of course, there’s always coaches and players who help you, especially goalkeeping coaches. When you come to England, you have to adapt to the style of play and I have to give credit to the people at Sunderland who gave me a chance to play because the only way you’re going to learn to adapt to the Premier League is to play games. A
t Sunderland I got the chance to prove that I was able to play at that level. So if there are any particular coaches or players who helped me adjust [to the Premier League] there’s probably too many to speak of and l may forget a few names.
You had a debut to remember for Liverpool at Anfield. Can you describe the fans and the support this season?
The debut was something to remember and probably something you dream of when you’re on the field. Saving a penalty in the dying minutes which eventually won the game is something you dream of and is one of the milestones of my career so far. The reaction of the fans was great and they accepted me as their goalkeeper a lot easier which helped me create a bond with them.
The fans at Liverpool always love their goalkeepers and are always behind them so as a Liverpool player you always have a strong connection with the fans. As a goalkeeper playing in front of the Kop on a weekly basis makes you feel extra special.
Who is the most influential player in the Liverpool squad?
Well, in the Liverpool squad there are many. Obviously everybody knows about Stevie and what he’s done in his career and what he’s still doing. He’s a character we all look up to on a daily basis when we see him playing and still going strong and working hard. As a goalkeeper you learn a lot on a daily basis when you come up against Luis or Daniel and other players.
The dressing room in Liverpool is very good, we’re a very tight squad as you’ve seen in the last few games. We stick together and the most influential thing is that we stick together as a unit rather than a bunch of individual players so that’s important in a squad.
Do you have any pre-match rituals or superstitions?
Not really. There are a few things you obviously do by yourself before a game and there are certain routines you do throughout your career. There is nothing special I would like to mention. There are a few things I do before a game but it wouldn’t really be a superstition or a ritual anymore if the whole world knew about it so I would prefer to keep it to myself.
Belgium have been labelled as “dark horses” for this year’s World Cup. What do you think of Belgium’s chances?
Initially the objective was to get ourselves qualified again for the World Cup because it’s been ten years since we last qualified. So we’re very pleased as a team that we got ourselves qualified again for the World Cup especially in Brazil. Now that we know who we’re going to come across in the first rounds we’ll try and do our best to get through the group stage and see what we can do after that.
But it’s too early to speak about what can happen after that because in a World Cup every team you come across will be very difficult to beat so the only goal is making sure we get through the first stages and see what kind of momentum and confidence we build as we get through and we’ll see where to go from there.
What was your proudest moment in your football career so far?
There are a few like the first time I played in the Premier League which was my boyhood dream, the penalty save on my debut for Liverpool [against Stoke City] and the first time I played for my country was something special as well. Hopefully the proudest moment is still to come. I’m very pleased with what I’ve done as a goalkeeper so far. So let’s see what comes up in the future.
Who did you idolize while growing up?
Well, because I was still playing outfield when I was 15-16 years old I looked up to outfield players rather than goalkeepers. I remember Romario and Bebeto in the 1994 World Cup in USA and Zinedine Zidane in the 1998 World Cup. So it was those players I looked up to the most rather than goalkeepers; which is funny.
You have kept out some of the world’s best strikers. Who gave you the hardest time?
Probably on a daily basis Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. I get across them every day and as a goalkeeper you can learn a lot from them.
What other hobbies do you have besides football?
There are a few things I do like trying to relax as much as possible and spend time with my family. We’re very busy people as we play football on a daily basis but besides football we like to spend time with our family and friends.
Do you follow any other sport besides football?
Yes of course I love sports and it’s not only football that I watch. There are too many I sports I watch to speak of like golf, cycling, tennis and everything else that’s on. If it’s the Olympics or anything else I try to follow it. Sports is something that interests me so I follow as much of it as I can.