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Captain's Blog: Mignolet Must Be A Cats Keeper

All the talk is of Arsenal readying a bid to prise the brilliant Simon Mignolet away from Wearside - but is there any sense what-so-ever in Sunderland selling?

Jan Kruger

It would be fair to say that I have probably never looked forward to a football-less summer more than I have this one. Sadly, that isn't because I have some kind of supreme faith in a glorious future for Sunderland. It is simply because the present has been so soul-crushingly bleak.

That said, one surely recurring theme of the break I was not looking forward to, or am indeed enjoying one bit, it the constant speculation surrounding the future of Simon Mignolet.

Don't get me wrong - I'd rather have richly talented footballers at Sunderland and learn to live with the press linking them to top clubs than not have them at all. Been there, done that, and it was rubbish.

But I am a football fan. I am allowed to act like a spoilt brat and as such I retain the right to never happy with my sporting lot in life. It's my prerogative.

It comes as no surprise that the Belgian stopper is attracting interest, of course. He has just come off a spectacularly good season at a relegation haunted club, has just two years left on his contract, and has the carrot of earning a starting spot for his country at next year's World Cup to chase.

The Mirror claims The Gunners are 'close' to securing his services, The Northern Echo think they probably aren't close, but they will be at some point and Sunderland face a real fight to keep him, and the Journal reckon he wants to sign a new contract and stick around. It is tough to know what to really believe.

That has naturally led to much debate among the fans over what the best course of action is. Cash in now when his stock is high and his future uncertain, or hang on to him and risk taking a financial hit somewhere down the line?

For me, the situation is clear - Sunderland must keep hold of Simon Mignolet. Unless he gets sufficiently unhappy and disruptive to force a move himself, which is something he doesn't seem the type to do, it's a total no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

I am sure I wasn't the only one to enjoy Kevin Phillips' Wembley winner last weekend. It was widely reported as 'a goal worth £120m' due to the bumper new Premier League TV deal that comes into effect next season. Well if that goal was worth £120m to Crystal Palace, then Simon Mignolet's weekly heroics this season have been worth the same to Sunderland.

You may say that is an overly simplistic and sensationalist way of looking at it, that perhaps a dose of reality is required. The thing is, the deeper you get into it the more compelling the argument to steadfastly refuse to sell Mignolet becomes.

That £120m figure, for a start, is actually a worst-case scenario. That is the amount the team who finishes bottom of the league next season guarantees itself. It is made up of around £61m for finishing bottom of the league - a greater sum than Manchester United received for winning the title last season - and a further £59m in parachute payments should they be required.

If Sunderland were to repeat their dismal league performance of last season under the new deal, the club's TV income would still soar by £20m, and an improvement into mid-table would likely see close to another £10m on top of that. It goes without saying that an improvement would stand a considerably better chance of success with Simon Mignolet in the side.

I can understand an assertion that selling now would swell the transfer coffers and aid what is expected to be an extensive summer rebuild, but I can't help but feel that is a little short-sighted.

There is this strange modern idea that footballing success is all relative to the amounts of money you have to throw at the transfer market. Obviously it is an advantage, especially at the very top of the game, but the margins lower down are much finer.

In fact, last season a meagre seven points separated nine clubs. For all we know Sunderland were bad, those that stand between us and the top eight are not much better.

The Black Cats have also finally seemed to have cottoned on to the fact that you can find value if you look in the right places, with a plethora of Bosman signings apparently targeted. People can scoff at a lack of prestige arrivals, but West Bromwich Albion, Swansea, and Norwich have proven you don't have to spend masses to embed yourself in midtable.

And the transfer market is not Sunderland's only salvation either, despite what you may be told. It will play a big part, but it isn't the sole path to improvement. There are also strides to be made in standards of professionalism, fitness, and preparation and all should make a difference, and the squad has enough of a sprinkling of existing quality with which to move forward and build upon.

If those improvements can be made - and there is absolutely no excuses for them not - then there is simply no reason why a bid in the £10m range should tempt Sunderland. Enhance the side ahead of him and suddenly those saves that turned defeats into draws last season become saves that turn draws into wins, and that money is brought into the club anyway without having to sacrifice a top performer.

It also then becomes a lot easier to persuade a player his future is best served with an emerging, developing side than it is a struggling one.

The face of football finance has changed this summer. The rewards on offer for failure, never mind success, have taken a giant leap higher. That makes matchwinners much more valuable than ever, and unless an offer is received that reflects Mignolet's heightened importance is received, then there appears to be very little reason to sell.

The cold reality is that even if he walks away at the end of his current contract, two years of further Mignolet heroics now carries a monetary value to Sunderland AFC that absolutely dwarfs the kind of fees that have been mentioned in the press.

There is also frankly enough work to do on the squad this summer without adding a top class goalkeeper to the list of requirements.

Paolo Di Canio has spoken in quite strong terms about his determination to keep hold of his few class players, and I hope he is sincere in that and not just trying to talk their prices up. I am yet to decide whether he is brutally open by nature or a political mastermind, to be quite honest.

But if Sunderland are going to bet on themselves to turn around their own fortunes, then this summer above all others is the time to do it - and resisting the temptation to cash in on Simon Mignolet is the way to start.

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