Chelsea's Edouard Mendy on his journey from unemployment to stardom
Wednesday, 11 August 2021
The Chelsea goalkeeper tells UEFA.com how he made it big in football after being forced out of the game at 22.
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Edouard Mendy reached the pinnacle of world club football when he helped Chelsea to beat Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final, but the 29-year-old goalkeeper's journey to the top was an indirect one.
High and dry and unemployed at 22, Mendy had the right to despair but instead redoubled his efforts, with spells at Marseille, Reims and Rennes teeing him up for a move to Stamford Bridge in September 2020. Ahead of the UEFA Super Cup meeting with Villarreal, he talked UEFA.com through his back story.
On the build-up to the Champions League final
The final week of last season, when we knew that the last match would be the Champions League final, there was a lot of discipline, a lot of adrenaline, and a lot of positive pressure because we knew that the Champions League final is something that truly has to be experienced. It might be something you only get to experience once in your life.
We all kept our eyes on the target. We really wanted to play the final our way, so we did what we had to do to prepare for the match. In the end, above all, we lived up to the occasion. For me, the two best bits were, of course, when Kai [Havertz] scored the goal; and then, when the referee blew the final whistle, I saw that everyone was so happy, crying happy tears. I saw the staff and the substitutes run onto the pitch and we knew that we'd done something big. I think it only sunk in a few days later that we'd really managed to win it. Lifting the trophy is a unique experience.
Chelsea's Super Cup record
Chelsea have won only once in four UEFA Super Cup appearances, lifting the trophy in 1998 but missing out in 2012, 2013 and 2019.
On Thomas Tuchel's contribution
He is charismatic, he has leadership skills. He is someone who engages people, so having a coach like that is definitely very motivating.
He really introduced the idea of us being a team in which everyone was important. That was demonstrated over the six months since his appointment. Almost all the players in the squad played. Then, he brought his own philosophy, which he has instilled. I think that suited the group straight away. What he wanted to do was eminently possible with this squad, so we saw immediate results.
On his goalkeeping journey
I didn't always want to be a goalkeeper, but I didn't have much of a future further up the pitch. I was asked to go in goal, and everything happened naturally after that. I've experienced all the divisions in France, from the sixth tier to Ligue 1. In between, there was a period where I was unemployed for a year, age 22. Having never been professional, it's difficult to then become a professional footballer, but I worked during that year, I worked twice as hard as the others. I had luck on my side and that thankfully paid off. I had the chance to sign for Olympique de Marseille. And I just went up from there.
After the season cut short by COVID, Chelsea became interested in me, and despite having qualified for the Champions League with Rennes, it was something that I couldn't refuse. It was the city where I wanted to live, it was the club where I wanted to play, the colours that I wanted to defend. Rennes understood. I joined Chelsea and it all went well for me.
On his darkest hours
A year is a long time to be without a club, so you think: "Maybe I'm not cut out for this." I was lucky enough to have my family around me. They reassured me that I could succeed in football and told me not to give up.
[When I found myself unemployed at 22] I'd kind of been left high and dry by my former agent. I was angry inside. I was also annoyed that I was going back home because it felt like I was starting all over again. Until then, I'd been independent, I'd been free, I'd had my apartment, I'd had my salary, so I hadn't needed anyone. Then I suddenly found myself clearly needing my family, when it had been me helping them until then. I felt embarrassed, and there was also this feeling of impatience because it was a very long year.
On being scouted by Chelsea's Petr Čech
I often spoke to [my agent] who told me about Chelsea's interest. I tried not to think about it because Chelsea are a pretty big deal and I'd come a really long way, but when the phone conversations started escalating, I realised that there was real interest from Chelsea and that I had to go for it.
I told myself that Chelsea might sign another goalkeeper, but Petr called me. He said: "Listen, only one goalkeeper is going to sign for the club, and it will be you. I only want you." When a keeper like Petr, with the career he had and being the Chelsea legend he is, tells you that, it calms you down a bit.
On the next steps
This year was fantastic. Now we need to keep going. We need to question everything; we need to start from scratch when the season gets under way again. What we did was good, but we need to leave that to one side and keep setting other goals, keep progressing and keep striving to make this club better.
Am I one of the best goalkeepers in the world? I couldn't tell you, but for me the most important thing is to be the best for my team. Being the best for my club means being the best every day and being the best I can on the pitch, helping my team to win trophies. I've progressed every year, and I did last year too, and that's something I want to do every year. It's something I want all the time.
Barcelona lead the way
Barcelona (9), AC Milan (7), Real Madrid (7), Liverpool (6) and Sevilla (6) have made the most Super Cup appearances.