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Édouard Mendy: ‘Unemployment support wasn’t going to be enough for us’

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Chelsea’s new goalkeeper reflects on his journey to the top levels of the game

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/2020 Getty Images

The story of Édouard Mendy’s career is the stuff of movies.

[Exterior, Montivilliers, Normandy]

Born in France to a Senegalese mother and a Bissau-Guinean father, joining the local famed Le Havre academy at a young age, making a fateful trip to England in his early teens and coming home with a Chelsea shirt, not quite making the grade straight out of the academy, dropping down levels in the pyramid, and eventually out of professional football completely, queueing at a job centre at the age of 22, looking to make ends meet to support his young and growing family.

[Cue training montage; Eye of the Tiger]

[Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive]

At 24, after a brief stay in Marseille’s reserves, Mendy signed his first professional contract, with Ligue 2 Reims. The next season, he’d lead them to the Ligue 2 title, earning a nomination for best goalkeeper in the division. He’d earn the same nomination in the top division the following season with Reims, before switching to Rennes last summer and earning his move to Chelsea this year.

[And the camera pans to the Chelsea shirt still hanging on the wall of Édouard’s family home]

[Cue fast cuts of clean sheets, trophies celebrations; One Step Beyond]

In all seriousness, Mendy’s rise has been as remarkable as it’s been inspiring. For the man himself, there were plenty of doubts about whether he’d ever make it in the professional game after being released by non-league Cherbourg in 2014 and just training on his own time, with the help of his brother for a year.

“[When] I had unemployment support [...] I could [still] dedicate myself totally to football. But it was incredibly difficult and so my partner was expecting our first baby. Unemployment support wasn’t going to be enough for us. We needed something else so I started looking for other work.

“Then I had the opportunity to go to Marseille and I was given a trial there. It was just a case of giving my everything to get the opportunity to join that club. Fortunately for me it worked and when it did it was a relief for me.

“One year without football is an incredibly long time and I had many doubts during that time. But it was thanks to my family who helped so much to keep me strong. I had my doubts over whether to carry on but I look now and say it is thanks to those that I am where I am today and my family are able to benefit from where I have got to with football.”

-Édouard Mendy; source: Goal

Compared to that, the pressures of Chelsea are small potatoes.