There are very few players who literally start from nothing and reach the highest level that football can offer. Just five years ago, Edouard Mendy was without a job, without a club, without football and, to find ways to provide for his family, exactly one a brick away from calling quits on his dream.
Fast forward to present times: The Senegal goalkeeper signed for Chelsea last month in a £22 million deal from Rennes, and he has turned fortunes at Stamford Bridge in just nine games. And there’s more to the story of Mendy than just being a top-class goalkeeper; he is also a an excellent person.
Mendy was born in Montivilliers, Seine-Maritime in France, his mother descended from Senegal and his father being Bissau-Guinean. At age 13 Edouard joined the youth academy of Le Havre AC to understand the basic principles of being a goalkeeper. Then it was his move to AS Cherbourg that enabled him to watch the semi-professional league of French third-tier system of the Championnat National.
He managed to stay with Cherbourg for three years till the summer of 2014 where he made a total of 26 appearances, but then came his big drought in football: Just 22, Mendy was without a football club for a whole year, and his girlfriend was expecting their first child. He regards this time as one of his darkest in his life as he began to realize that unemployment benefits would not be good enough to provide for his family. The Senegal international began to hunt for jobs outside the world of football.
His agent promised him fortunes with a club ready to sign him in England, but months passed without the agent answering his calls, leaving him with no hopes to achieve his dream. This was the deal-breaker moment for Mendy who queued up at a local job centre to get through this survival phase of his life. One of his friends even asked him to manage a clothing shop at Le Havre. Edouard’s interest was in business since he’d studied business in secondary school, but the hunger for football never really went away.
The former Cherbourg goalkeeper began to train by the help of his brother, and it was his family that never abandoned his quest to become a professional footballer. Mendy has said plenty of times that it was his family who supported him and instilled the idea of football in him during his wilderness year without a club.
He even managed to train without any pay at former club Le Havre, but then came a phone call from club Marseille in 2015 that provided hope for him to return to the field where he belonged. That kick-started his focus on wearing the keeper’s gloves again. Despite playing for the B side, the keeper understood the dynamics of football even better.
During the 2015-16 campaign, Mendy secured a move to Reims in the second tier where he eventually helped the club achieve the Ligue 2 title in 2017-18, making 34 appearances and conceding only 24 goals. This was where his career took root.
After his impressive performances at Ligue 2, Rennes grabbed Mendy for £3.5 million in 2015. The Senegal international went on to keep 13 clean sheets in 33 total matches. conceding just 31, which eventually helped the club achieve its best finish at third in the table, which earned them Champions League entry for the very first time.
His excellent season at the Roazhan Park grabbed the attention of Chelsea’s goalkeeper scout Christophe Lollicho, who was impressed by the shot-stopper. That made him call technical director and performance advisor Petr Cech to watch a few matches. Mendy was honured to have former Chelsea goalkeeper scout just to see the Senegal goalkeeper, and eventually Cech made the phone call to sign him up.
Mendy became the second goalkeeper to join Chelsea from Rennes just last month. There is another legendary candidate that did exactly the same in 2004, Petr Cech who is said to have recommended the 6’5 keeper to supercede the Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga. Since wearing the Blue shirt, the Senegal international has turned fortunes for Frank Lampard’s back line becoming Chelsea’s number one keeper already.
Interestingly, Mendy will return home to France in November 24 in a rematch attempt at his former side Rennes in the Champions League group stages. The clubs were put in the same group just a week after his transfer to the Stamford Bridge, and the first game ended up with a 3-0 Chelsea win and Mendy keeping a clean sheet.
Chelsea spent nearly $300 million on new players this summer, and they were mainly attacking ones, but the £22 million spent at goalkeeper looks like a bargain. Since the arrival of the English manager, the Blues have conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game, giving him one of the worst records ever for any full-time manager at the club. Most blame can be put to the mistakes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of football in 2018 when he signed for a record £71.6 million, seven-year contract.
Prior to Chelsea’s 4-1 victory over Sheffield United, Mendy had kept five consecutive clean sheets, something the Blues had not achieved in the past 10 years. He has set his fellow defenders at ease by making the likes of Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Kurt Zouma and Reece James look extremely solid at the back.
The Senegal international has kept an impressive six clean sheets, conceding just three goals in nine matches, quite the numbers for anyone coming from another league and adapting quickly to the Premier League’s fast-paced competition.
Mendy is making the most of his opportunity at Chelsea, paying dividends on all the support he received from his family during his darkest moments. From struggling to get any game time in his younger days to suddenly being left alone by his agent after big promises to even leaving his football dream, Mendy persevered — progressing in France and eventually landing at number one at Chelsea, saving shots for fun and keeping clean sheets.
If all this is not inspirational, then I don’t know what is.
Fun fact: Did you know the Real Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy and now Chelsea’s Eduoard Mendy are related as cousins?!
Is Edouard Mendy in your fantasy plans? What do you think of his journey? Any predictions on the number of clean sheets Mendy will keep this season? Has he been Chelsea’s best signing of the summer? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!