International weeks are just the worst. Club loyalists, like your scribbler, spend the entire time fretting over the well-being of Liverpool's international stars, crossing all available extremities, waving at magpies and worrying our chosen deities in the hope of preserving those same players for their next game of real import, when they will once again don the Liverbird.
Invariably, such concentrated bursts of travel, intense competition and fierce patriotic pride have a knock-on effect on the club, as battle-weary players return to Melwood in various states of physical and emotional disrepair. Luis Suarez, for example, will travel 7,000 miles to play a crucial qualifier against Jordan, before making the same flight back and arriving only a day before the biggest game of Liverpool's season to date, at Goodison Park. Such, my friends, are the perils of releasing our players for frivolous things like World Cup ties.
Simon Mignolet has more reason than most to have his head turned by the current round of international matches, as they afford him the opportunity to reclaim his position as Belgium's number one. With Thibaut Courtois impressing behind the defence of high-flying Atletico Madrid, the on-loan Chelsea man had edged ahead of Liverpool's custodian in Marc Wilmots' favours. Courtois suffered a twisted ankle in training but Mignolet had already been guaranteed the opportunity to stake his claim.
On the back of what most have perceived as a solid start for an impressive Liverpool side, Mignolet claims that he has had some surprised reactions to the revelation that he is not his country's first-choice net minder. A calm and self-possessed character, the Belgian is clear about his own desires without throwing his toys out of the pram.
"In England, not just in Liverpool, I don't know what to answer when people ask me how I'm not first-choice for the Red Devils," he told Nieusblad. "I do not try to hide my ambition to be number one, and preferably before the World Cup. Brazil is still some time away. Despite my ambition, my first priority is that the team is well prepared to deliver a good performance. That is much more important than my personal interests."
Of more interest to Liverpool fans, is how the young man performs for his club. To date, Mignolet's shot-stopping has been nothing short of world-class. To say otherwise would be begrudgery and folly. It would, however, be equally erroneous to suggest that the belgian has looked the finished article.
This writer's heart has been given too many unnecessary perturbations by our goalkeeper's aerial handling under pressure and his distribution has had most Reds pining for Pepe Reina's laser-guided passing from foot and hand. Too often, under pressure from an opposition forward, Mignolet has lacked composure and produced the kind of hoofing normally reserved for sides coached by that doyen of the lofted ball, Roy Hodgson.
Still, on the whole Mignolet has been solid and his assertions that he now represents a team that "plays to win" will tickle Liverpool fans, if not those of Sunderland. Having been amongst the busiest 'keepers in the Premier League last season, the custodian has noted a "big difference" when playing for a generally dominant Liverpool side who aspire to possession football. If the young Belgian can convince Wilmots of his superiority to Courtois, perhaps this may be one occasion on which the benefits of international break will outweigh the negatives. Confident and capable goalkeepers are essential to any team with lofty aspirations.