Mike Maignan, Lille, PSG
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One to watch: Mike Maignan, Lille's undersung saviour

Publish on 20/05/2021 at 11:48 - S. WILLIS

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Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David might grab most of the headlines for LOSC, but if Lille do indeed win Ligue 1 Uber Eats this season, their success will have been underpinned by their goalkeeper, Mike Maignan.

Maignan has kept a league high 21 clean sheets this season for a LOSC side who have conceded a league low 22 goals. Jose Fonte and Sven Botman ahead of him deserve some credit for les Dogues' defensive solidity, but the two centre-backs will nonetheless be delighted to have Magic Mike behind them.

 

Lille can win a first Ligue 1 Uber Eats title since 2011 if they can beat Angers SCO on Sunday, and with Maignan backstopping the side, they have every reason to believe.

 

Back story:

 

Born in Cayenne, French Guiana to a Haitian mother and French father in July 1995, Maignan and his family moved to the Parisian suburbs when the youngster was eight, and he made his first steps in the game there as an outfield player. Maignan first went in goal to plug a gap amid an injury crisis at youth level, but by the time he joined Paris Saint-Germain's academy in 2009 at the age of 14, his height and bravery made his move into the position a full-time one.

 

Maignan impressed on his journey through the age group categories in the capital, but after 13 clean sheets in 40 games, he found his progress checked at reserve team level, with first Salvatore Sirigu and then Kevin Trapp blocking his path into the first XI. LOSC gave him a way out in 2015, and after two seasons as Vincent Enyeama's understudy, he was made first choice under Marcelo Bielsa for the 2017-18 campaign.

 

Mike Maignan, Lille

 

Style of play:

 

For a player who grew up wanting to be a midfielder and idolising Liverpool and England great Steven Gerrard, Maignan certainly looks like he has been playing in goal all of his life. His positioning and shot-stopping is second to none, but he is also brave when collecting deliveries into his box and quick to distribute the ball once he's reclaimed it. Maignan's penalty saves also make him stand out from the competition. His first ever act in a LOSC jersey was to deny Paul-Georges Ntep from the spot, and he has stopped nine more penalties since.

 

Current campaign:

 

Former Greece No.1 Orestis Karnezis arrived in Lille last summer as part of the deal which took Victor Osimhen to Napoli, but despite his vast experience, he has been restricted to a single outing in the Coupe de France, with Maignan coach Christophe Galtier's undisputed first choice for the second straight season. Twenty-one clean sheets - including shut-outs against PSG, Monaco and Marseille - have helped Lille to the top of the league, and it should come as no surprise that Maignan will take part in UEFA Euro 2020 with world champions France, most likely as Tottenham Hotspur's Hugo Lloris's deputy.

 

 

What they said:

 

"He would've preferred to have been an outfield player. That's why he's so good with his feet. Just before the French selections at Clairefontaine he told me he wanted to give up playing in goal. I managed to convince him otherwise and he was taken. Of course he was better than his teammates, even outfield, but it was in goal he had the potential for a career."

 

- Maignan's former youth team coach, Romain Damiano.

 

"He was practising shooting and the ball was going past me at 400km an hour! Gianluigi Buffon, Julio Cesar, these guys wouldn't have stopped those shots. He told me: 'You're a s*** goalkeeper.' For me, that wasn't right. The next time, he came back but I stopped his shot. I had to respond: 'You're a s*** attacker.' He just looked at me and didn't say anything. Back in the changing room, he stopped me. He told me that it's good, that he liked what I did and that he liked my personality. I loved him before but it made me like him even more."

 

- Maignan on his early brushes with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in PSG training.