Seven years ago Edouard Mendy was unemployed, now there are no questions over his job security as he continues to do fine work at Chelsea.
The Blues are through to this season’s Champions League final courtesy of a 3-1 win on aggregate over 13-time winners Real Madrid. After earning a 1-1 draw out in Spain, Thomas Tuchel’s booked their place in the May 29 final against Manchester City thanks to a 2-0 second leg win on Wednesday night.
While Timo Werner and Mason Mount earned the goalscoring plaudits, the work of goalkeeper Mendy cannot be ignored.
Edouard Mendy (left) was beaming after Chelsea reached the Champions League final
The Blues goalkeeper was brilliant when called upon to shut out Real Madrid on Wednesday
The unassuming £22million summer signing didn’t have a lot to do at Stamford Bridge, but like all great goalkeepers he performed when called upon.
Real Madrid were a shadow of their former glories but came close to finding the back of the net either side of the interval.
Knowing they needed to score to have any chance of progression, Karim Benzema nearly did so with a curling effort into the bottom corner. Minutes later he came close to getting on the scoresheet again with a deft header.
In the second half former Chelsea star Eden Hazard managed to have a half-chance with a firm right-footed strike towards the near post.
In those three moments the Real duo were denied by Mendy – highlighting that his concentration levels never dipped during a game which he and his team-mates dominated throughout.
However, the saves were important due to the way the tie was poised. If a goal had been scored then, for all of Chelsea’s dominance, Real would have had the momentum due to the away-goal rule. If those chances had gone in, a wasteful Chelsea would have needed to score four to progress.
In the first half, Mendy tipped away Karim Benzema’s low goal-bound curling effort
Just a few minutes later, he denied Real’s No 9 with this acrobatic save from his header
The save was crucial as it denied Real cancelling out Chelsea’s away-goal advantage
Speaking post-match, BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand hailed Mendy’s contribution – especially with his first stop to deny Benzema.
‘That was a majestic save from Mendy. When we talk about moments, they’re the moments we are talking about.
‘It isn’t just about strikers, it’s goalkeepers who have to step up too.’
His sentiments were echoed by former Blues midfielder Joe Cole who praised the Senegalese for his overall contribution this season.
‘Mendy has been a revelation since he’s come in,’ Cole said.
‘No matter how good you defend, when he’s been needed he steps up.’
Rio Ferdinand (left) and Joe Cole both praised Mendy following the semi-final second leg
It’s hard to argue with Cole’s statement. The goalkeeping position at the Blues had been a quandary since 2018, prior to Mendy’s arrival last September.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was signed for a goalkeeping world-record fee £71.6m almost three years ago but his flaws were quickly exposed.
The Spaniard found himself battling with an ageing Willy Caballero as the club’s first-choice. Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard knew he needed goalkeeper last summer and got one with the acquisition of Mendy from Rennes.
This isn’t the first time Chelsea have done business with the French club to sign a goalkeeper – with a then-unknown Petr Cech having trodden this path back in 2004.
Cech’s 11-season stint at Stamford Bridge saw him become a club legend and the club’s greatest-ever goalkeeper. In his debut campaign he won the 2005 Premier League and Mendy can usurp that with a FA Cup final against Leicester and the Champions League showpiece with Manchester City to look forward to this month.
Mendy cost £22million from Rennes – the same finishing school which produced Petr Cech
MENDY’S CHELSEA STATS THIS SEASON
Games Played: 40
Minutes Played: 3,600
Save %: 76.2 per cent
Goals Conceded: 26
Mins/Goal Conceded: 138
Penalties Faced: 2
Penalties Saved: 0
Clean Sheets: 24
Cech knows what it takes to succeed as a goalkeeper and he played an influential role in bringing Mendy to west London. Sources at the club have told Sportsmail in the past that Lampard wanted to sign Atletico Madrid stopper Jan Oblak but Cech was firmly in favour of Mendy and recommended him.
Using their statistical analysis, the 29-year-old ticked a lot of boxes for the characteristics of a goalkeeper that they wanted. Statistically he was amazing compared to other goalkeepers around Europe.
This season, Cech’s foresight has been justified. Wednesday’s night clean sheet was Mendy’s eighth in 11 Champions League matches this season – the most in a single campaign by a goalkeeper for an English side in the competition’s history.
Looking at his overall contribution to the Blues too this campaign and the stats speak for themselves.
Chelsea’s No 16 has made 40 appearances and kept a staggering 24 clean sheets within that time as he flourishes under Lampard’s successor Thomas Tuchel and his defensive-minded approach.
Since Tuchel arrived in late January, his side have been hard to breach and these will have only helped Mendy’s stats. Overall this season he has a 76.2 per cent save rate and only conceded a goal every 138 minutes.
With him in the team, Chelsea are keeping a clean sheet for 60 per cent of their matches. In his absence, that drops to 53.85 per cent.
Mendy has flourished under Thomas Tuchel’s defensive-minded approach at Stamford Bridge
He’s underlined his position as the club’s No 1 and hasn’t managed to upset Arrizabalaga and Caballero by doing so.
Speaking last month, he said of his relationship with them to L’Equipe: ‘The best option for three to four goalkeepers, is that the atmosphere is at least cordial and at best that they all get on and put the team first.
‘Today, I get on well with Kepa and Willy, there are no cheap shots taken.’
That chemistry was in full effect on Wednesday night as Mendy posted footage of him and his team-mates celebrating wildly on Instagram. He has only been at the club since late September but by leading that moment it shows the influence he is already exerting on his team-mates on and off the pitch.
Mendy says his relationship with Kepa Arrizabalaga (centre) is good – despite usurping him
It’s been quite a journey for the goalkeeper to get here.
Rewind to seven years previously and the then-22-year-old had been promised a move to England’s League One only for his agent to leave him jobless.
‘When you are unemployed, you tell yourself that you are not going to find a way out,’ Mendy later reflected. And the message from the job centre was not encouraging, either. ‘My adviser asked me what I wanted to do for a living,’ he recalled.
‘I answered “football”. He replied that at some point we would have to think of something else.’
Chelsea players were delighted in the dressing room after beating Real 2-0 on Wednesday
Mendy posted a video of wild scenes as the players danced and jumped around together having sealed a final against English rivals Manchester City on May 29 in Istanbul
Offers would arrive, but with a baby on the way, he couldn’t afford the insecurity of short-term deals.
‘At that point, I said to myself, “It’s dead. I’m going to stop football and I am going to work”.’
Thankfully his career changed when Marseille gave him a lifeline in 2015 before he decided to join Ligue 2 side Reims where he signed his first professional deal at 24.
He may have been without a job in 2014 but fast-forward to 2021 and Mendy certainly has that security at Chelsea.
Now it’s time to cement that status by winning a FA Cup and Champions League double this month.
In 2014, he was unemployed but now has a FA Cup and Champions League to look forward to
CHELSEA’S STATS THIS SEASON WITH AND WITHOUT MENDY
Clean Sheet %
Avg. Goals Against