Not for the first time, Ethan Horvath is
about to lose his starting job at Belgium's Club Brugge.
Horvath, who was in goal when Brugge won the 2018 Pro League title and then recorded consecutive shutouts last fall against Monaco, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, started the first two games of the 2019-20 Pro League season (3-1 and 6-0 wins).
But Club Brugge found the chance to sign 31-year-old Belgium international Simon Mignolet from Liverpool too good to pass up even if it had to shell out a Belgian record fee of 7 million euros ($7.7 million) for a keeper.
Mignolet played 245 games in the Premier League in nine seasons with Sunderland and Liverpool. He didn't play for the Reds last season after they acquired Brazilian Alisson.
The $7 million outlay is surprising but Club Brugge has plenty of cash after the summer transfers of a trio of players to English clubs -- Wesley Moraes and Marvelous Nakamba to Aston Villa and Arnaut Danjuma to Bournemouth -- for 65 million euros (almost $73 million).
"A goalkeeper was not really high on my wish list," said Brugge coach Simon Clement, "because I have a lot of faith in Ethan Horvath. He can still grow enormously. But these are different circumstances and Simon was an opportunity."
Clement said he liked how the 24-year-old Horvath responded to the news of Mignolet's signing and worked in practice on Monday. Both Mignolet and Horvath are in the Brugge squad for Brugge's Champions League qualifier against Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.
Horvath, who grew up in Colorado, moved to Norway's Molde when he was 18. He made a name for himself when he helped Molde reach the knockout stage of the 2015-16 Europa League. He was brought in by former Belgium goalkeeping great Michel Preud'homme in 2017, starting the last four games of the 2016-17 season and first 11 of the 2017-18 season before being benched. Horvath returned for the last four games of the playoffs to lead Brugge to its 15th league title.
But Horvath was back on the bench for the start of the 2018-19 when Brugge coach Ivan Leko brought in fellow Croatian Karlo Letica from Hajduk Split. That transfer has since been included in "Footgate," the Belgian soccer scandal in which Leko has been accused of taking cuts on transfers -- including that of Leko -- charges he has denied.
Letica started the first two months of the 2018-19 season but then Horvath regained the starting job. With Mignolet's signing, Letica has been linked with a move to Italy's Bologna.