Le50 2016: Mike Maignan – Lille OSC
Being second string goalkeeper at Lille is no easy task. Vincent Enyeama continues to be one of Ligue 1’s most consistent shot-stoppers, and the 2015-16 campaign for Mike Maignan has been even more testing because of a shoulder injury that has seen him sidelined for over three months.
It was not the way the summer recruit from Paris Saint-Germain wished to introduce himself at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, yet fans of LOSC can be greatly heartened with what they have seen of the 20-year-old custodian.
His playing time came in the autumn, when Lille were still in the throes of Herve Renard’s unsuccessful tenure and were struggling to maintain a mid-table position. Amidst these difficult circumstances, Maignan conceded only three goals in four matches and particularly caught the eye because of his penalty stopping.
When Enyeama was handed a controversial red card in the Week 6 clash with Rennes, Maignan made an unexpected debut after 72 minutes – and his first touch for the club saw him save Ntep’s penalty. He conceded a few minutes later, but that didn’t stop the youngster impressing in the Nigerian’s absence.
Reims’ David N’Gog and Montpellier’s Ryad Boudebouz joined Ntep in all failing to beat the keeper from the spot (although the third hit the post rather than saw his effort stopped) – it was quite an introduction.
Nevertheless, Maignan did not leave the Parc des Princes to make an immediate impact in the north: he knew that Enyeama would be too great an obstacle to overcome at this stage of his career. Instead, he is a young man who is looking at the long game.
“I know that I’m not going to play, but I will progress,” he said upon joining back in August. “This is a club that relies on its youngsters, a club that’s very disciplined and has a great deal of rigour. PSG told me that Lille would be good for me; they knew I was not going to play much.
“It’s a long-term project. In Paris, it was complicated.”
The arrival of Kevin Trapp had forced Maignan down to fourth choice in Laurent Blanc’s side, behind Salvatore Sirigu and Nicolas Douchez, but playing second fiddle to Enyeama was something far more palatable.
“He might have broken the record for invincibility in Ligue 1,” Maignan considered. “He’s a very good goalkeeper. Knowing that I want to progress, I can only learn from him.”
Though his progress has been arrested due to his shoulder trouble, the youngster has shown himself to be pragmatic with regard to his career in the past.
Speaking in 2013, shortly after signing his first professional deal with PSG, he said it was his ambition to become the club’s No.1 goalkeeper. It was an unlikely ambition for one who came into his role purely by chance.
“When I was eight, we had no goalkeeper for our team in Villiers-le-Bel. I started like that, just to help out,” he admitted. “And as I did not too badly, I continued. Even so, I did not like the solitude – I wanted to be outfield with my friends to score goals.”
So did he learn to love his new vocation? “Not really,” he confessed. “When my team has the ball, I like to participate in the game, give an option to the defenders. And it’s only when my team loses the ball that I become a goalkeeper again. Then I have to be good. It’s my job after all!”
It is unsurprising, then, to learn that Manuel Neuer is one of his great goalkeeping heroes, along with Petr Cech.
Ligue 1 might have only seen fleeting glimpses of the French Guiana-born shot-stopper, but those fans who have seen him play can only have been impressed. Touted as a potential international of the future, Maignan is happy to take things at a slow and steady pace, and it seems that once Enyeama departs Lille the club have a ready-made replacement in the wings.