From Benchwarmer to Being Called Gandalf, Simon Mignolet Has Come a Long Way

From being called a benchwarmer in Liverpool, to now being called Gandalf, Simon Mignolet has had a roller coaster of a career. 

The Belgian first started making a name for himself when he played in Sunderland before he was signed by Brendan Rodgers for being the first-choice keeper of Liverpool after the departure of Pepe Reina.

Although Mignolet was Liverpool’s first choice from 2013 to 2016, his performance was inconsistent at best. He had some very strong and simultaneously some extremely bad performances.

Kop brought in Loris Karius to challenge Mignolet for the starting position in the team. However, neither keepers were able to cement the number 1 spot.

Following Alisson Becker’s 2019 arrival as the squad’s star player, Karius and Mignolet both gradually left the team.

From there began the journey to his hometown club, Club Brugge.

In the 2021-22 season, Mignolet performed fairly well in the regular season.

In the playoffs, however, he performed much better, helping keep 4 clean sheets in 6 games and winning the Belgium First Division A title.

This season, Brugge has been playing in the Champions League and were put in a group with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, and FC Porto – three very strong and formidable teams.

In the four games that they have played so far, they have conceded a grand total of zero goals. Zero. 

The Belgian team is first in the CL table and have already secured a place in the round of 16, with two games to spare.

At the beginning of the season, no one would’ve even had them qualifying for the Round of 16, let alone two games before.

Their hero in this has of course been Simon Mignolet. The keeper has made an astonishing 21 total saves in these 4 games, including a penalty. 

Last night, against Atletico Madrid alone, he saved a whopping 14 shots. His stellar performance earned him a man of the match award, with a rating of 8.8. 

Yesterday’s game earned him the record for the most number of saves a player has made against a single club in the UCL, without conceding even once.

Opta showcased this record by calling him Gandalf, a character from Lord of The Rings.

If you are like a lot of the people who haven’t seen the trilogy, you might be wondering what Gandalf has to do with this mighty performance.

Without going into the deep lore of the chronicles, Gandalf has a very iconic quote in which he says “You shall not pass!” 

The main point in this dialogue was to show that Gandalf was too powerful against the villains and that no matter what you do, you will not be able to go past him, which happens to be very fitting for the Belgian goalkeeper’s showing.

Opta has often used pop culture references for describing amazing player performances, like when they called Martinelli ‘The Flash’ for his quickness in scoring the opener against Liverpool. 

They even referred to Bruno Fernandes as Moses for bringing United to the promised land or at least appearing to do so at the beginning of his United career. 

As fun as Opta’s tweets are to read, the fact that comparison as iconic as Gandalf was used says big things about the performance of Simon Mignolet.

He has truly gone from being the forgotten one in Liverpool to be the Wall of Brugge.