On the day his signing from Rennes was confirmed, we sat down with Edouard Mendy to discuss his pride at moving to a club he has supported since he was young, the prospect of following in the footsteps of some African greats, and his desire to keep progressing on an upward path.
It has been well documented that Mendy has not always had it easy, having spent a period out of the game and looking for work earlier in his career. Now, however, having starred at Reims and then Rennes in France, the 28-year-old has joined the Blues and is determined to take the next step on his unusual but exciting path to the top of the game.
We also spoke about his expectations of Premier League football and how he’s feeling fit and fresh, but first, the 6ft 6in Senegalese gave us his immediate reaction to joining the Blues…
‘I’m very proud,’ said Mendy. ‘When a club like Chelsea is interested in you, it means you’ve done great work every weekend. Everyone knows Chelsea are one of the biggest clubs in the world, and everyone would like to play for this team, but not everyone can. To have a chance to wear this shirt and defend the club’s colours, it’s a privilege.’
And we understand you’re a Chelsea fan!
‘Yes! I’ve been a Chelsea supporter since I was little. I adore this club. When I was 12 I had the chance with a past club I played for to go to Brighton, and we watched a match. I thought English football was amazing. We went into a shop and I saw the Chelsea shirt, this was about 2003 when Ranieri was the manager, and I bought this shirt. So I’ve always liked this club.’
And we have a long heritage of African greats here, too…
‘Of course. Most of the biggest African talent has played for this team. Drogba, Essien, Eto’o, Mikel. When you see that, you want to continue it. Regarding the goalkeeper, I am the first, so it really makes me very proud, and it’s also a big responsibility.’
What are you expecting from the Premier League?
‘I’m waiting to see it live every weekend, but there are a lot of games, a lot of intensity, a lot of goals like this last weekend! It’s an attractive league, the stadiums are fantastic and when they are not shut the passion of the fans is incredible.’
It’s been a month since you last played. Are you feeling physically fit?
‘Yes, I’m fit. Even though I haven’t played a match for a while I’ve been training as usual with Rennes. I have played an in-house match too in training recently, so I’m feeling good.’
Six years ago you were playing third-tier football for Cherbourg. Can you believe the journey you have gone on since then?
‘When this story is discussed, then I realise the path I have been on in my career. It’s true that it’s incredible. People say hard work pays off, and it does. I have worked very hard; I haven’t taken anything for granted. I was at Marseille, and then Reims, and then Rennes, and now Chelsea. It’s been a constant progression, and now I am ready to continue on that upward path.’
Did you come up against Thiago Silva in France?
‘I have played against him twice. He beat me once, and I beat him once, so we are all square! Now we wear the same shirt, he speaks very good French which is useful, but we will speak in English! It’s super to have a player like him in the team.’
Have you spoken with Petr Cech?
‘Yes, he called me while the transfer was ongoing and reassured me. It was great to have someone from the club speak to me. It showed me they really wanted me, and it was really appreciated.’
And finally, what do you hope to achieve at Chelsea?
‘I want to adapt to this league, continue my progression that has been constant for a number of years, and to win. At a club like Chelsea, you have to win.’