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Édouard Mendy, 29, won the Champions League with Chelsea and is preparing to keep Senegal’s cages once again at CAN. Seven years ago, however, he was without a club and was receiving unemployment benefits. Story of a meteoric rise.
If the life of Édouard Mendy were a film, it would be a remake of “Rocky: the story of an outsider”, with a failed career, who refuses to admit defeat and ends up against all expectations , by winning the highest distinctions in his sport. In 2014, Édouard Mendy was unemployed at 23, an age when the Kylian Mbappé and other Erling Haaland had already broken through for a long time. His career could have ended there, but he has finally become the best African goalkeeper today.
Unemployed for a year
That year, his contract with Cherbourg (National, the third French division and antechamber to the professional world) came to an end. No club is interested in the Senegalese goalkeeper and his agent even stops responding to his messages. He returns to live with his parents, in the suburbs of Le Havre, and accepts a friend’s offer to work in a clothing store to support his family. His partner is then pregnant with their first child.
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Édouard Mendy could have become another youngster among the thousands left by the wayside of professional football. A friend will, however, unlock his career. His former Cherbourg partner Ted Lavie puts him in touch with OM goalkeeper coach Dominique Bernatowicz. The club is then looking for a goalkeeper for the reserve team.
“From the first test I gave it, I saw what wood it was made of,” recalls Dominique Bernatowicz in the Guardian.
Reims, Rennes, Chelsea: constant progress
He puts him in contact with an agent capable of finding him a professional club in France. He thus joined Reims at the start of the 2016/2017 season. And as the luck of a new goalkeeper is made up of the misfortune of the previous one, he takes advantage of that of Johann Carrasso, who loses the confidence of the coach after the first game of the season. Édouard Mendy takes his place and shows off his talent.
African Premier League stars
The following season, Édouard Mendy played a crucial role in the crowning of the club from eastern France in Ligue 2. The following season, at the highest level in France, he impressed as one of the best goalkeepers in L1: 14 matches without a goal cashed, the third highest tally in Ligue 1 this season and a performance that allows Reims, just promoted, to clinch a surprising 8th place.
Despite offers from Porto and Chelsea, Édouard Mendy prefers to stay in France. He left Champagne for Brittany, Reims for Rennes. The Breton club is used to the soft underbelly of the championship, often at the gates of the European Cup.
From his first match, Édouard Mendy marked the supporters: while he had just recovered from a broken finger, he saved a penalty and allowed the club to win 2-0 against Strasbourg. The historic 2019/2020 season of the SRFC is launched: with Mendy ensuring the rearguard and well helped by the premature end of the championship due to the Covid-19, Rennes finished for the first time on the podium and won a ticket for his first Champions League.
What, once again, to attract the attention of the big European teams. Legendary Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has kept an eye on his former Breton club. He then advised Frank Lampard, coach of the Blues, to take an interest in Mendy. The transfer is signed for 22 million euros
🔴[Chelsea] : Edouard Mendy voted best player of the year by blues fans.
— sirsport.net (@sirsport_) December 20, 2021
A club of the caliber of Chelsea was exactly what Édouard Mendy needed to take it to the next level. Once again, its beginnings are brilliant. He steals the starting place from Kepa Arrizabalaga, yet arrived with the most expensive goalkeeper status in history. He keeps his cages clean from his debut in the Premier League against Crystal Palace (4-0) until a victory against his former club Rennes in the Champions League (3-0). In total, over the 2020/2021 financial year, he totaled 25 “clean-sheets” in 44 matches.
To top it off, Édouard Mendy played a leading role in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph. With the final victory over Manchester City, he became the first African goalkeeper to lift club football’s most prestigious trophy. And with nine matches without conceding a goal, he equalized the record in the matter, co-held by Santiago Canizares in 2000-01 (then in Valencia) and Keylor Navas in 2015-16 (then at Real Madrid).
He played for Guinea-Bissau before Senegal
His performances in his various clubs have earned him attention in national selections. Born in France to a Senegalese mother and a Bissau-Guinean father, he could claim a place in all three teams.
At first, his heart seems to go to Guinea-Bissau. In 2016, he honors the Lycaons with his presence for a few friendly matches. Édouard Mendy says he pays homage to his father, who was then seriously ill:
“(My father) always told me that he would like me to wear the Guinea jersey one day. I told myself that he could leave without my having offered him the joy of seeing his son in a national team. It could have been something unfinished for him. So I jumped at the chance ”, he explains in 2018 to SoFoot.
Finally, with the remission of his father and the approach of the CAN-2017 in Gabon, he ended up opting for Senegal. Lions of Teranga with whom he “always wanted” to evolve because it is “the homeland of his mother”.
Senegal gives him back his choice. With central defender Kalidou Koulibaly, he is a formidable rearguard for the selection of the Teranga Lions. Alongside Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gueye and Liverpool superstar Sadio Mané, the West African nation is once again advancing as the favorites in Cameroon.
Senegal have every reason to be grateful for Mendy’s decision – especially as his strong defensive line is a major factor in making him a favorite to win the trophy, benefiting from the formidable presence of Napoli’s star center-back. Kalidou Koulibaly alongside the talented left-back PSG Abdou Diallo. With a talismanic presence up front in the form of Liverpool winger Sadio Mané, Senegal should be a formidable presence in Cameroon.
However, Édouard Mendy still seems to suffer from a popularity deficit. Despite his exemplary season, he finished second behind Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Lev Yachine Trophy for the best goalkeeper of the year. A new exemplary CAN could allow him to win a title so deserved for the one who has never given up his dreams.
Adapted from the English by Romain Houeix. The original version can be found here.