Yesterday Edouard Mendy was deservedly named the Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper for 2021, and he has spoken from Cameroon, where he is currently competing at the Africa Cup of Nations, to give his reaction to the award and underline his determination to keep improving.
Mendy’s rise to the top of the game has been a fairytale story. Not long ago he was without a club and pondering his next steps. Walking away from the game was a very real possibility, but Mendy persisted and has reaped the rewards, rising from the lower French leagues to become a European champion with Chelsea.
‘It is a very special moment for me, and for my family,’ said Mendy on being named the best keeper, revealed by Peter Schmeichel (top).
‘It is something that is historic because it is the first time an African goalkeeper has won this award, so I really have a feeling of pride, on behalf of Senegal but also on behalf of Africa. I hope that over the years, other goalkeepers like me will continue to write their name into the pages of world football.
‘It makes me happy, and it pushes me to keep going. I just try to do my best, to work hard every day, to perform with my team at the club and with the national team.’
Despite reaching the pinnacle of the game for goalkeepers, Mendy does not want to stand still. It is that commitment to development that helped him scale such heights in a short space of time.
‘I think there is always room for improvement if you want to learn,’ he noted.
‘Today, I still want to learn, I still have a thirst for trophies. We have a very good group at Chelsea, it's a very good club, where we can do very good things.
‘Every day I'm at Chelsea I listen to the goalkeeping coaches, James Russell and Hilario. I listen to the head coach, Thomas Tuchel, who has a very interesting philosophy and vision of football. So I'm progressing every day, I don't feel like I've reached my limit. I know I can still contribute to my club and my national team, and that's what I'm going to do.’
In the short term, Mendy will be focusing all his efforts on helping Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations. His start to the tournament was delayed because of a positive Covid result shortly after he arrived in Africa, but he is now back with the squad and hoping to start later today when the Lions of Teranga take on Malawi.
Kick-off is at 4pm UK time and as long as Senegal avoid defeat they are guaranteed a spot in the last 16. A win could see them finish in first place, depending on how Guinea get on against Zimbabwe in Group B’s other game.
‘Things are going very well, they are getting better and better,’ assessed the 29-year-old.
‘We weren't too lucky at the start of the competition because we were heavily affected by Covid. Many players therefore had to be sidelined, including me. But we managed to take four points, and we now have a decisive game. We are fully focused on this.
‘Our expectations are to do our best, to give our best on the pitch, and to try to win this trophy because we play to win this trophy, and I think we are ready.’