Initially, Edouard Mendy should have heard the Champions League anthem for the first time – in a match – at Roazhon Park in Rennes. Precious craftsman of the qualification of the Breton club for its first group stages of the queen competition in Europe, the Senegalese goalkeeper however left the club before the start of the 2020-2021 continental season. He crossed the Channel, heading for the banks of the Thames and Chelsea.
It was in the Blues jersey – where he was quick to be adopted – that he will finally hear Die Meister, Die Besten, the Great Teams … resonate in the Breton enclosure. Tuesday, November 24, Chelsea will travel to Rennes on behalf of the fourth day of the group stages of the Champions League (6:55 p.m.).
A goalkeeper passed from the Breton capital to that of England, the trajectory invariably evokes that of Petr Cech. Revealed at the international level in Rennes, the Czech goalkeeper had become one of the best on the planet during his stint at Chelsea in 2004.
Links between two cities, the two men do not have the same characteristics in the cages. But it was on the insistent advice of the former Czech goalkeeper, now technical and performance advisor of the club, that Chelsea once again went to look at Roazhon Park.
“Petr had an important role because the goalkeeper position is a very special position and he was the best in the world for a long time, assured coach Franck Lampard after signing the Senegalese at the end of the transfer window. So he had his say on this issue, I rely on him a lot for day to day goalkeepers and preparation for the future. “
Spotted for over three years
Asked by The team, Petr Cech confirmed, in early November, to have influenced the recruitment of the new goalkeeper of the Blues. And not just because, like him, he defended the Stade Rennes goal. “Edouard, I’ve been following him for three and a half years, when he was in Reims, relates the Czech, alerted at the time by Christophe Lollichon, responsible for the goalkeepers of the London club, which he had also brought from Rennes. Since then, he has continued to improve, season after season. And when, last summer, it became clear that we needed a new goalkeeper to compete with Kepa [Arrizabalaga] and Willy [Caballero], I insisted that I thought he was the best on the list. My advice was followed. “
Obvious, because until the landing of the Senegalese international on the banks of the Thames, Chelsea was weakened by chronic uncertainty in his cages. The many poor performances of Kepa Arrizabalaga embodied the inability of the London club to solve all its problems with millions of dollars.
Bought a fortune (80 million euros, the record for a goalkeeper) at Athletic Bilbao, the Basque never managed to convince. To the point that Franck Lampard admits, at the beginning of September, “Having had goalkeeper problems” since his appointment a year ago.
Last reassuring rampart
These concerns now seem to be a thing of the past. The former England international has nothing but praise when he talks about his new goalkeeper. “In this kind of close encounter, without many chances, where you like knowing how to count on your goalkeeper, he was very good”, he greeted, at the end of October, after Mendy had strongly contributed to his draw at Manchester United.
The one who, barely six years ago, unemployed and failing to find a club, thought he had to give up football (before bouncing back as fourth goalkeeper in Marseille, then exploding in Reims, before his year in Rennes) has succeeded an express adaptation. At 28, Edouard Mendy has established himself as the last reassuring rampart in the London cages.
In the Premier League, he has conceded only one goal in five games. Unheard of since … Petr Cech in 2004. In three Champions League matches, he never went to get the ball in the net. Statistics of bad omen for his ex-Rennes partners, down on the offensive in their discovery of the queen competition in Europe.
“I miss you guys a bit! “ After the first leg, largely won in London by the Blues (3-0), the goalkeeper had gone to give many hugs to its former partners. Before bursting into tears in the arms of his ex-trainer, Julien Stéphan, who, during his transfer, had deplored the loss of“A great guardian and a great man”.
Edouard Mendy will once again have the opportunity on Tuesday to remember the good memories of Rennes. In front of an empty stadium, Covid-19 requires, the Senegalese intends to continue his series of invincibility in the Champions League.