Édouard Mendy is finally a Chelsea player after a monthlong pursuit that was only supposed to take a few days, but better late than never. The entire season is still ahead, practically, and if he can up to speed quickly, he should be expected to play a ton.
Officially, Mendy, who wear the No.16 shirt, may be here only to provide “competition” for Kepa, but that’s much more likely to be the other way around.
“As soon as Petr Čech and our technical team identified Édouard as the most suitable goalkeeper to complement our existing group, there was only one player we wanted to bring in. Édouard arrives following a season of real success with Rennes, he is ambitious for more, and we welcome him to our club.”
-Marina Granovskaia; source: Chelsea FC
Mendy’s rise has been remarkable, bringing to mind the likes of Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kanté, both working their way up from non-league football in England and France, respectively, or even Didier Drogba, in terms of getting a relatively late start to their careers. Drogba didn’t choose to become a full-time footballer until he was 21; Mendy was queueing at a job center to make ends meet at 22.
Five years later, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in France (nominated for the award in both 2017-18 and 2018-19, in Ligue 2 and Ligue 1, respectively), a full Senegal international, and now, playing for a club he’s always adored in the world’s most watched league (and, as he reveals in his first interview with Chelsea TV, living in the same city as his sister).
“Yes! I’ve been a Chelsea supporter since I was little. I adore this club. When I was 12 I had the chance with a past club I played for to go to Brighton, and we watched a match. I thought English football was amazing. We went into a shop and I saw the Chelsea shirt, this was about 2003 when Ranieri was the manager, and I bought this shirt. So I’ve always liked this club.”
“[And] most of the biggest African talent has played for this team. Drogba, Essien, Eto’o, Mikel. When you see that, you want to continue it. Regarding the goalkeeper, I am the first, so it really makes me very proud, and it’s also a big responsibility.”
Mendy may be 28 years old, but he’s made only 155 professional appearances so far in his career. By contrast, Kepa has almost twice as many (292) a week shy of his 26th birthday. Goalkeepers’ careers tend to last longer than most already; there should be plenty of miles left in Mendy’s legs and massively long arms — he’s almost half a foot taller than Kepa, and his wingspan seems limitless.
Mendy’s relative lack of experience may be a problem, but he comes with the approval of both Christophe Lollichon and Petr Čech — both former Rennes-men as well, incidentally — so we should perhaps look at that more as a chance that he still has room to improve from his already highly regarded and aerially dominant baseline.
“...the path I have been on in my career. It’s true that it’s incredible. People say hard work pays off, and it does. I have worked very hard; I haven’t taken anything for granted. I was at Marseille, and then Reims, and then Rennes, and now Chelsea. It’s been a constant progression, and now I am ready to continue on that upward path.”
But Mendy, who declared himself fit to play this weekend despite a month without an official game, of course knows that above all else, he has to become the missing ingredient in Chelsea’s winning aims.
“I want to adapt to this league, continue my progression that has been constant for a number of years, and to win. At a club like Chelsea, you have to win.”
-Édouard Mendy; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all.