x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Transfer news: Mignolet ready to compete with Reina at Liverpool

Belgian goalkeeper, fourth signing for English Premier League side, could be long-term option to eventually replace Spaniard.

At 25, Simon Mignolet could be the long-term option to replace the veteran Pepe Reina. Andrew Yates / AFP
At 25, Simon Mignolet could be the long-term option to replace the veteran Pepe Reina. Andrew Yates / AFP

New Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet insists he is not scared by the competition he faces from established first choice Pepe Reina.

The 25-year-old Belgium international has signed a long-term contract, having passed a medical, after the Reds agreed a fee with Sunderland on Friday which could rise to £11million-plus (Dh62.31m).

Manager Brendan Rodgers has stressed Mignolet has not been signed as a replacement for Reina, who has been linked with Barcelona for several months.

Despite a deal not yet materialising, complicated by the fact the Catalans' No 1 Victor Valdes has declared his intention to see out the remaining 12 months of his contract, there remains speculation it will happen.

Reina, on duty with Spain at the Confederations Cup, insists he sees his future at Anfield and, if that is the case, Mignolet is ready for the battle which will ensue.

"Competition can only be a good thing," said the Belgian.

"I've been in big competitions wherever I've been – in Belgium with the national team and in Sunderland with Craig Gordon and Keiren Westwood, who are international goalies.

"Now it's the same again with Pepe and with Brad [Jones].

"It's only a good thing – to be competitive and to train as hard as you can, it can only bring the best out of you.

"Pepe is an experienced goalkeeper who has proven a lot over the years.

"I'm looking forward to working with him, the same as I am with Brad and the goalie coach.

"It's a challenge, but that's what you want. You want to play in the big games, you want to play for a big club and to play with pressure.

"I'm very confident in myself and my own abilities and I can't wait to get the first clean sheet under my belt.

"I've never been a nervous person. I'm quite confident in my own abilities."

The move to Anfield is a step up for Mignolet, but he is relishing the challenge.

"It's a big club and when you arrive it's a big thing," he told liverpoolfc.com.

"I'm very pleased to be here and I'm looking forward to getting started.

"The first training [session] will be very early and I'll be happy to be there.

"I tried to keep this as quiet as I could because there are a lot of things that have to be finalised before you sign.

"I kept it quiet because I know my friends and family, they'd get excited but they're happy and hopefully they can come over for a lot of the games. I think they will be proud."

Mignolet is confident he can fit in with Rodgers' passing philosophy, which starts with the goalkeeper.

"Back in Belgium, the goalies always train to play with the ball at their feet," he added.

"We join in most of the time, playing more with our feet than with our hands. I'm used to this.

"I've spoken to him [Rodgers] a few times already and I'm very pleased. He is very ambitious, like I am.

"Let's hope we can win a lot of games and finish as high up the table as we can."

Mignolet becomes Liverpool's fourth signing of the summer following Manchester City's Kolo Toure, Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas and Sevilla's Luis Alberto.

Rodgers is keen to get his business done early and he is also tracking Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori and is interested in Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who failed to turn up to his club's pre-season training camp.

Chief executive Sergei Palkin has warned the Armenia international he will be fined if he does not make an appearance,

Palkin denied there had been any official approach from the Reds and told the 24 year old he must attend the camp or risk punishment.

"Mkhitaryan did not come to the training session yesterday but he had to – we do not know why," Palkin told Russian newspaper Sportsdaily.

"If he does not join the team in the coming days he will be fined.

"Concerning Mkhitaryan's behaviour I know that he does not have any problems with his team-mates and coaches and we have not heard from him about his intention to leave Shakhtar.

"All the questions about Mkhitaryan's behaviour should be addressed to him

"I am certain that the negotiations between them [Mkhitaryan and Liverpool] is just rumour.

"No offer for Mkhitaryan has been made at Shakhtar."

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio thanked keeper Mignolet for his efforts as he prepared to launch a new era at the Stadium of Light.

Di Canio promised the proceeds of the move would help his ongoing mission to re-shape the squad he inherited from predecessor Martin O'Neill.

The Italian told the club's official website, www.safc.com: "Simon is a fantastic footballer, a fantastic professional and a fantastic lad and I would like to personally thank him for his contribution to the team last season.

"He was crucial to what we achieved and he goes with the very best wishes of everyone at the club.

"I would like to assure our fans that there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes. Our aim is to build a competitive squad for the new season and this deal will give us further ability to strengthen the side."

Republic of Ireland international Westwood is likely to be the main beneficiary of Mignolet's departure.

The 28 year old admitted earlier this month that he might have to consider a move in a search for first-team football after losing his place as Ireland's number one to Millwall's David Forde.

Mignolet joined the Black Cats from Sint-Truiden for £2m three summers ago and was arguably Sunderland's best player last season as the club only just avoided relegation from the Premier League.

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