From being unemployed in 2015 to winning the UEFA Champions League as the first African goalkeeper; the inspiring story of Edouard Mendy

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Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy is the first African goalkeeper to win the UEFA Champions League since the name of the completion was changed from the European Cup.

The journey of the Senegalese-born goalkeeper was not rosy. Mendy had to go through several ups and downs in his journey to the top.

At a point in time, he was left employed and thought his world was coming to an end. Fast forward to 2021, Edouard Mendy was in the post when Chelsea beat Manchester by a goal to nil to win the club’s second Champions League title.

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In the space of six years, Edouard Mendy has gone from being unemployed to Chelsea’s No.1 goalkeeper. At the heart of the story is an optimist, with a world-class sporting mentality.

Now, the inspiring story of Edouard Mendy

Former Head of Chelsea, Frank Lampard signed Mendy to compete with club-record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has badly struggled for form, and on the recommendation of transfer advisor and club legend Petr Cech. Like Cech, Mendy comes from Rennes with something to prove.

Normandy-born Mendy enjoyed a comfortable, middle-class upbringing under a Senegalese mother and a father hailing from Guinea-Bissau and studied business.

The football obsessive idolised Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer, while Ronaldo Nazario was his favourite outfield player. A school trip to Brighton as an 11-year-old saw him pick up a Brighton shirt, the first kit he ever owned.

His football career began in the academy system at local club Le Havre, regarded as one of the top goalkeeping schools in France.

He was to be released by his club however after falling behind Zacharie Boucher in the pecking order.

After five years at local amateur club CS Municipaux Le Havre, he won the Normandy Cup, attracting interest from professional club AS Cherbourg.

Starting again from the third tier in France, Cherbourg president Gerard Gohel gave Mendy his opportunity.

Aged 22, Mendy found himself unemployed after his agent had promised him a move to the Premier League.

“An agent dumped me,” Mendy told Le Parisien.

“I had full confidence in him and he dumped me. He told me that I was going to sign for an English team, but [he said] that I had to be patient. After [that] summer, I called him and he didn’t answer.

“I trained alone, waiting for an opportunity. That experience helped me see things differently.”

Reports in France also claimed that one friend of Mendy suggested that the goalkeeper could take charge of his clothes shop in Le Havre.

However, Mendy didn’t give up and joined Marseille’s reserves in pursuit of a second chance. His work paid dividends and after moving to Reims in search of game time, he joined Rennes, where he stayed for one season before signing for Chelsea.

In a conversation with Chelsea FC after joining the club, he said:

“If someone had said to me then [6 years ago] I would end up at Chelsea, I would not have bothered to look at or listen to them.

“It was really very difficult because, on one hand, you have the anger of finding yourself without a club because of the agent I was with, but also the disappointment of not being able to play at the weekend, not being able to do what I love.

“That is really hard, a year is a very long time for a footballer. Fortunately, I could always count on my family and they helped me through that and to bounce back and get to where I am today.

“When I got the message from my agent at the time, I immediately went back to the club where I trained when I was young, and I was training with the reserves there every morning. In the afternoon I’d go to the gym or with my brother to the pitch to practise shot-stopping.

“I had unemployment support at the time so I could dedicate myself totally to football, but it was incredibly difficult and my partner was expecting our first baby so the unemployment support wasn’t going to be enough for us.

“We needed something else so I started looking for other work, but then I had the opportunity to go to Marseille and I was given a trial and it was a case of giving absolutely everything to have the opportunity to join that club. Fortunately, it worked, and when it did it was like a complete release for me because I had many doubts during that time.

“It is thanks to those moments that I am where I am today and my family is also able to benefit from where I am in football.”

Today, Edouard Mendy is a Champions League winner.

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