Just a month ago, most of us had no idea who Édouard Mendy was. The 28-year-old had gained some attention in France, earning nominations for Ligue 2 and Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and had gotten regular call-ups to the Senegal national football team, but perhaps outside for some dedicated Football Manager players, he was a target out of the blue when Chelsea’s interest was first reported in late August.
But for Chelsea technical
director advisor Petr Čech, Mendy was a well-known quantity. The Chelsea legend had been aware of Mendy for the past three years, ever since his former coach and now co-worker, Christophe Lollichon recommended the then Reims goalkeeper.
“I started following him when Reims won Ligue 2 and got promoted. You could see the first year with Reims in Ligue 1, he made a huge step forward in terms of his progression, and last year after joining Rennes you could really see this amazing progression continue.”
While Rennes tend to play a modern style high-line, high-pressing football that requires the goalkeeper to do much more than just make saves, it’s that latter part that’s been a missing key ingredient for Chelsea. Fortunately, it sounds like Mendy is good at both of those aspects.
“He is a very all-round goalkeeper.
“He is very good with his feet. He has all the range of distribution, from long to short, and as well in the last two years if you watch European football, the way he dominates crossing situations and high balls in the area is unlike anybody else.
“He uses his size and he has great timing to read the trajectory of the ball. He is strong at high balls and commanding the area, and he uses his size very well for saves.”
“The style of football Rennes played last year, a lot was with the goalkeeper, and trying to play high and press. It’s similar to here where he will have a high line and people pressing high, and you need a goalkeeper who can play high and anticipate on balls behind and in the area.”
While the official line is that Mendy is only here to provide competition for Kepa Arrizabalaga, the obvious reality is that we need Mendy to be consistently better than either Kepa or the almost 39-year-old man who’s probably already usurped him, again, for the third time this calendar year, Willy Caballero.
That’s certainly a lot of pressure ready to be heaped on Mendy’s sizable shoulders. But he’s already dealt with and overcome bigger challenges in his life, especially outside of football. And he certainly appears to have the ambition, the drive, the personality, and of course the skills to come good on Chelsea’s relatively small, but still sizable investment of around £22m.
“He’s someone who blossomed late, and it was maybe unexpected for some people. He’s sort of new in top professional football, it’s been four years. He’s still fresh, but already has a lot of experience.
“He has the qualities of overcoming difficult moments. It’s something that might help him. Coming to Chelsea there is a lot of pressure, but when you have had different pressures in your life before, like he has when he was unemployed and without a job, you might cope much better with pressure from football
“Last year playing with Rennes in the Europa League, and playing for Senegal, it gives him a lot of experience. I believe he will be a great complimentary unit for our team, and challenging our goalkeepers and fighting for the spot.”
-Petr Čech; source: Chelsea FC
Mendy won’t play today, as Chelsea take on West Brom in the Premier League, but if all goes well, we will be seeing quite a lot of him in the months and years to come. He may not be the final, be all solution to the goalkeeper problem, but if he can do the job for a few years while we find the next Čech or Courtois, we will have overcome our €80m mistake.