Former Liverpool shot-stopper Simon Mignolet’s outstanding form at Club Brugge should make him the first goalkeeper to win the Jupiler League’s Golden Shoe since 1987, Belgian legends Jean-Marie Pfaff and Michel Preud’homme tell Het Nieuwsblad.
History is littered with examples of goalkeepers hitting their stride the other side of 30. Edwin Van der Sar, for instance, was arguably better at 40 years of age than he was a decade previously. Gianluigi Buffon wracked up the trophies at Juventus after entering his fourth decade.
And Mignolet, his 35th birthday approaching, is a major reason – if not the reason – why Club Brugge will be playing Champions League football post-Christmas for the very first time next month. The one-time Sunderland glovesman kept a remarkable five clean sheets in six group-stage games, knocking out Atletico Madrid along the way with some truly ‘world-class’ performances between the sticks.
He was equally impressive in domestic action during 2022. Mignolet’s vast experience and commanding presence secured Club Brugge a league and Super Cup double.
And, according to two of Belgium’s greatest ever goalkeepers, a place in the history books would be a fitting reward for a man who has been worth every single penny of his £6 million price-tag and then some.
Ex-Liverpool ace Simon Mignolet helps Club Brugge make Champions League history
“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.”
Belgium’s POTY award – or the ‘Golden Shoe’ – has adorned the respective mantelpieces of Vincent Kompany, Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard in recent seasons. No goalkeeper has claimed it since Preud’homme 36 years ago.
“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 quarter-final tie is not out of the question for Club Brugge either. Benfica are daunting opposition, yes, but one of the more winnable draws Mignolet and co could have faced.