Who better to speak to about our new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy than the man who made the same journey from Rennes to Chelsea 16 years ago, Petr Cech.
Now the club’s technical and performance advisor, Cech was ‘very influential’ in Mendy’s acquisition, according to Frank Lampard, while our new no.16 told us yesterday of the reassurance the Czech had supplied while the final terms of the deal were thrashed out.
Speaking to the official Chelsea website, Cech says he was first alerted to the Senegalese keeper three years ago by Christophe Lollichon, his long-time coach who still works at the club, and has closely tracked his progress ever since.
‘I started following him when Reims won Ligue 2 and got promoted,’ starts Cech.
‘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.
‘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.’
Cech is as well placed as anyone to explain Mendy’s technical qualities. It is clear he makes good use of his 6ft 6in frame.
‘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.
‘He will be another piece for the puzzle we are trying to complete, to have a really competitive team to challenge for the highest positions and titles, because Chelsea is all about that. We are a top club and we have top players in each position, and he is here to make even more competition for our goalkeeping department. It gives another option to the manager for this position.’
It is to be expected that parallels will be drawn between Cech and Mendy because of their route to Stamford Bridge, but our former no.1 is quick to play that down. He instead prefers to highlight the similarities between French and English football, and the manner in which Rennes and Chelsea like to play the game.
‘It’s quite unique he comes from the same club as I did, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with it,’ says Cech.
‘I’ve played the same league, I’ve been there, I know how good the league is. Of course years have gone by, but generally I believe goalkeepers coming from the French league are ready to play in the Premier League. In France the players are always physically well prepared, similar to the Premier League.
‘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. He will be a great addition to our goalkeeping department.’