Simon Mignolet is determined to embrace the responsibility that comes with committing the next stage of his career to Liverpool after the goalkeeper signed a new deal with the club today.
The 27-year-old sealed an extension to his Reds contract at Melwood this afternoon and immediately sat down with Liverpoolfc.com to explain his ambitions and objectives for the future.
Now midway through his third season on Merseyside, Mignolet has clocked up 122 appearances and ended 2015 with more clean sheets than any other ‘keeper in the Barclays Premier League.
But the Belgium international is eager to improve his performance level further and play a crucial role for Jürgen Klopp’s team in the months and years ahead.
Read on for a full transcript or click play above to watch the interview if you are an LFCTV GO subscriber.
Congratulations on the new long-term contract – how pleased are you to get this deal done and dusted?
It’s amazing and I have to thank the club for the confidence in me. I’m very pleased that I can be at Anfield and a part of Liverpool for a long future. I’m happy to commit my future to LFC.
Why is this the right place for you?
Ever since I arrived here we have been going in the right direction. Also, with the new manager, who has praised me a lot – not only speaking with me personally but also to the outside world – I feel a lot of confidence from him. I’m here for the long-term future now and let’s hope together with the squad and the fans, we can achieve great things. We have to push on and keep improving. At the moment I arrived, three years ago now, I spoke with the goalkeeping coach and everybody at the club about what we could do better and work on. That list is becoming smaller and smaller. But it doesn’t mean that now I’ve signed the contract anything is going to change. We’re going to keep working hard and keep improving and building in the direction we want to go.
Was it important for you that now the contract is done, you can focus on continuing that improvement?
Yes, exactly. That’s the main thing. I have learned a lot since I arrived here, playing for a big club like Liverpool. Like I said, at the moment I arrived, we spoke about things we wanted to do better and could do better – that list is getting smaller. We’re working in the same direction to keep going forward. This contract is some sort of incentive to keep doing that. I wouldn’t say I want to work harder or push harder because that would mean in the past three years I wasn’t working at 100 per cent. Nothing has changed really. I signed my contract today. This morning, I was in the gym again to do my work and that will be the same for the future.
How have you changed since you first came to the club and how has the club changed?
Obviously the new manager has come in and a lot of players have come in and out. I have learned a lot of things. When you come to a big club, it was an eye-opener to see how big the club is all over the world. Then also in playing games, as a goalkeeper you have to change your style a bit and change the way you play. Playing out from the back, being commanding and being a leader is something very different to what I was used to before. Those are the things I will keep improving on. I’ll keep trying to do my best; I know where I can improve and I know where I can become better. Now we’ll work hard every single day in training and in the games we play to do that. I know signing a new contract comes with new responsibility. I’m getting older as well and coming into the years where people would say those are the years a ‘keeper is at his best. I know with a long-term contract, you get more responsibility – and I want to take up that role because I’m the sort of character that wants to be a leader, wants to speak in the dressing room and wants to help the defence. It’s an incentive to work hard in that sense, to be more commanding and to be a leader to help the team out whenever needed. I’ll try to work hard together with the goalkeeping coach and staff here, who are behind me and have given their confidence with a new contract. I would like to thank them for that – but you can’t really do that with words, you have to do that with performances on the pitch. And that’s what I’ll try to show.
You spoke about the adaptation coming here, the size of the club and the pressure and responsibility that brings. You have had to deal with that and develop. Do you feel you can now help other players adapt to the size of this club?
Yes, this year a couple of Belgians have arrived and I have helped them settle in. I have helped them being part of Liverpool and part of such a club. I’m getting older every day and more experienced, and I can help the young lads out in those kinds of ways. Signing a new contract and long-term deal makes it a bigger responsibility than it was already – you have to take it and embrace it and use it for the better of the whole team.
You touched on Jürgen Klopp and his praise of you and backing of you. How big a difference does that make to a goalkeeper, or any player, when you’ve got a manager who is so adamant about his support for you?
Especially for the goalkeeper, you have to feel the confidence of every staff member and the team. Because in that position you need people behind you and need them to believe in you 100 per cent, so you can do the best job you possibly can. I feel that confidence from everybody at Melwood. I have worked a lot with John Achterberg, the goalkeeping coach, and as I said, the list we made when I arrived here was very big. We looked at things we could improve and that will stay the same. Every day in training, we will try to work to keep improving the things we can do and maintaining the levels we’re at. He will do his work again from tomorrow onwards, like I will do – put our heads down, keep both feet on the ground and work as hard as we can.
It’s a unique positon because you only have one goalkeeper in the team. Adam Bogdan is here, Danny Ward has come back – do you work to push each other on to help each other become better?
Absolutely, we’re like a small unit and we have to keep each other sharp. There’s only one who can play and therefore the one who is not playing will be disappointed. I look at it that I have to try to push myself the hardest I can – that’s the only way I can get the best out of myself. Every time I have the chance to train or play, I’ll push myself the hardest. I’ve said before I’m my biggest critic; I’ll always look at what I can do better and where I can improve. Then it comes down to hard work to make sure that every time you have the chance to improve, you do it and you learn from things in the past that you could have done better. With the years and games you’ve played and the experience you gain, you become better for it. I hope to achieve a lot of great things on a personal level, but especially with the club because that’s what you want. You want to win things and Liverpool again wants to be at the top in England and Europe. With the new manager coming in and lifting the spirits, I think we’re on the right way. If you see the last couple of games we played against big opponents, unfortunately we didn’t manage to get the points but we definitely put in performances worthy of where we want to be. We’ve still got a lot of games this season and there are still a lot of things we can achieve this year with the Capital One Cup, FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League. We’ll do our best to get results and get the best out of every game we can, because there are a lot of things to win and Liverpool wants to win things.
What are those targets then, both in the long-term and the short-term? Do you see silverware this season as something you can grasp?
In the three years I’ve been here we’ve done a lot of great things. The first year, we went on that long Premier League run, unfortunately we missed out in the end, finishing second. [Last season] was the first time playing Champions League in a while, which was a great experience as a young team, we learned a lot through that. And now this year we’re still fighting. Last year we had the semi-finals in the FA Cup and the League Cup and this year we’re in the semis of the League Cup, we’re still in the Europa League, the FA Cup only just started and the Premier League we’re fighting in. I would like, together with the team, to win a trophy because that’s what you want as a football player, those will be the things you’re remembered for. So let’s hope we can try to do that as quickly as we can.
We spoke about your record in 2015, the most clean sheets in the Premier League – is that a target you then set yourself to try to exceed in 2016?
We speak about that a lot with the coaching staff. I’ve said it before, last year we managed with the team to get 15 clean sheets, which was the highest number in 2015. Like I said, clean sheets you get with the team, it’s not just the ‘keeper, it’s not just the defence. We have to do it all together and we work hard every day in training to learn what things we can do better. We know where we can improve to keep more clean sheets and obviously when you keep 15 the aim is always to go higher and improve that because we know if you keep clean sheets you’ll win more games and you get more points.
If you look at how we played against Manchester United and Arsenal, there is a lot to take from those games...
All the games we played against big opposition this year, we can take a lot of positives from them. Against United, we created so many chances and we played really good football, unfortunately you don’t get anything for that. That’s why we have to learn from those kinds of things because you don’t want that feeling anymore of frustration and disappointment after the game when you played well. In the future we have to show that killer mentality and make sure we win those games so we can capitalise on the [performance]. That’s something we’ll try to do in the future. Obviously it’s a good sign that we played such good football and created that many chances against top opposition, and in the future we’ll only be better for it.
Away from Liverpool, there’s the goal of the Euros with Belgium waiting at the end of the season. Is that a huge incentive for you?
That’s something else in the back of my mind. We go back to Belgium in March to prepare ourselves for the Euros in the summer and it’s a big stage. We’ve got a very good group of players and a very good squad so hopefully we can do well in France. We’ve got a tough group but we’ll try to get through and see where we end up in the tournament. The young lads in Belgium learned a lot in Brazil, we’ve been together a long period of time, and we’ve gained experience through that so therefore we will be better for it at the Euros. If we can get through the group you never know what can happen.
It must be a hugely exciting time to be part of the Belgian national team with so many world-class players?
It’s a generation of players who are at the same kind of age, grew up together, same kind of football, same style. It’s nice to be together and there’s a big fanbase behind us in Belgium as well who want the national team to push on. They’ll be behind us in France, one of our neighbours, so that makes it even more special. Hopefully we can do well and that’s what the aim will be in the summer.