Edouard Mendy has given his first reaction to being nominated for the prestigious African Player of the Year award, while also focusing on the team challenges ahead as he aims to make this coming season even more successful than the past.
Our goalkeeper’s great start to his Chelsea career continued as he played his part in our capturing of the Club World Cup while on the international stage, he was central to Senegal winning the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time. Little wonder then that a couple of days ago, he was one of 10 players announced on the shortlist for his continent’s individual award.
‘It is a big honour for me, for my family, for my country and for the goalkeepers as well, because the last goalkeeper who won this trophy was almost 40 years ago,’ Mendy pointed out. ‘So like I say, it is a huge honour as in Africa it's a big issue.’
In fact just two goalkeepers have won the award since it started in 1970, Cameroon’s Thomas N'Kono and Ezzaki Badou from Morocco.
‘I prefer not thinking about this but yeah, it's something great,’ Mendy confirmed about being in the running. ‘I spoke with Sadio [Mane] who has already won one, and he told me it's something great for your career and from what you come from, so let's see.
‘It's tough, we have some legends [nominated], and that's why I prefer to be focused on the pre-season with my team-mates.’
Turning his attention to his club football, Mendy considered one of the main challenges for the season ahead, which is to endeavour to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League.
‘Now it's time to work,’ he said. ‘Let's see how the season will start. When you play for Chelsea, you play for the Champions League, for the national cups and of course for the top four, so we have to be ambitious.
‘If you think about last year, until December we were close but then we had a lot of things against us like injury and COVID cases, and we lost a bit our level of performance.
‘If you watch our games against Liverpool and Man City last year, I don’t think you can see a big gap between us and them so we just need this year to start well, keep our performance, and let's see what happens.’