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World Cup: Mignolet - Belgium's keeper who has a degree in Political Science


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Footballers are often, rightly or wrongly, given the stereotype of being poorly educated. Former Arsenal legend Perry Groves once said, “Manchester City are built on sand and I don’t mean that because their owners are from the Arab countries.” whilst ex-Liverpool great Phil Thompson declared on Soccer Saturday, “Frank Lampard has still got the same legs he had five years ago.”

These rather foolish comments however, are not one's you would hear from Belgium's and Liverpool's second choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The 30-year-old has a degree in Political Science and speaks four languages. 

He began his footballing career playing as a midfielder for home town club Sint-Truiden yet was released. His father was a goalkeeper and they used to practice in the garden together, so Mignolet decided to change positions. After playing for a year his old club then wanted him back. At just 18 he was their first choice keeper and he went on to make 104 appearances in both the Belguim Second and First Division. In 2009 he helped Sint-Truiden win the Second Division to achieve promotion to the Belguim top flight, even scoring a goal against Ronse in a 5-1 win. His initial penalty was saved but he scored the rebound. The following season earnt him the title of Belgian Goalkeeper of the Year as his performances ensured Sint-Truiden remained in Division One.

This earnt him a £2m move to Premier League side Sunderland in 2010. He started the 2010/11 season well however he was replaced by former Celtic man Craig Gordon who then became first choice. It wasn't until February 2011 that Mignolet regained his place after Gordon received an injury. In 2012/13, Mignolet played every single minute as he received praise from both manager Steve Bruce but also Manchester City keeper Joe Hart who described Mignolet as ''the best keeper in the league'' for that season. He left as Sunderland's player of the year.

Then followed a £9m move to Liverpool where he signed a 5-year contract. He played 3 full seasons for Liverpool as their number 1, however he was dropped for Loris Karius at the start of the 2016/17 season. Jurgen Klopp even said to the press that Mignolet was no longer first choice and would be playing cup matches only. Last season Karius remained number one as Mignolet was limited to 15 appearances although he did achieve 200 appearances for Liverpool and a club record 8th penalty save.

Mignolet has always had a fall back plan in case he was to stop playing football. In 2012 he told Belgian news site KU Leuven: ''I realised all too well that a serious injury could put a quick end to a sports career. I wanted to have something up my sleeve.'' In 2012 he graduated from the University of Leuven with a political science degree. Mignolet would finish training to go home and continue working whilst his team mates were out having fun.

He says that his team mates did not know he was studying and it was only when an article in The Guardian was published that they started to ask questions. He said: ''They find it weird that I’m studying, but they respect it too. Our defender, Phil Bardsley, saw an advantage immediately: he said I could assist him if he ever has to appear in court, since I’m studying administrative law at the moment.''

As well as being highly educated he is also multilingual, fluent in French, Dutch, German and English. Yet it is his ambitious yet grounded attitude that has seen him do so well. Mignolet prefers not to spend his money on flash cars and expensive toys, he said: ''I understand why players have those cars and are like that but, for me, those things are not really important," he says. "It's partly to do with how you've been brought up and partly that some people just like to show off away from the pitch. That's understandable and fine, it's just that I'm not into it." 

In 2015, he married his girlfriend Jasmin Claes who is a lawyer. Mignolet has perhaps been unlucky that Belguim have Thibaut Courtois in goal as he may have made more appearances for his national team.

Although Loris Karius looks set to leave Liverpool this summer, maybe it is Mignolet who should be looking to move and establish himself as a number one again. 


Image rights - Both images Wikimedia Commons









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