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Out of a job 3 years ago, Mendy shines in the French league

September 20, 2018

PARIS (AP) — On returning to the French league this season, six-time champion Reims traded the free-flowing football that won it the Ligue 2 championship for a more counterattacking style.

The defensive principles stayed the same.

The No. 1 principle: Make sure Edouard Mendy is in goal.

After five rounds, Mendy has conceded five goals, earned three cleansheets, made 39 saves, and ensured Reims has made a smooth transition into the topflight.

The promoted Reims is in 10th place ahead of receiving Dijon in the league on Saturday.

At 1.97 meters (6-foot-6) and 86 kilograms, Mendy is an imposing figure in goal. An imposing figure whose burgeoning career was almost cut short four years ago when an aborted transfer to England left him unemployed.

Out of contract with Cherbourg in the fourth tier of French football in the summer of 2014, Mendy expected to sign with a League One side after a player’s agent gave him guarantees a deal was done. Confident he was about to set foot on the other side of the English Channel, Mendy turned down offers from other clubs only to find out the job offer did not work out.

Unemployed and dejected, Mendy thought about ending his career at age 22.

“For a football player or anybody else, being unemployed is like getting slapped across the face,” Mendy told So Foot magazine last season. “Repeated failures leave marks on you, and you start thinking that maybe you are not made for it.”

Mendy returned to Le Havre, the club where he started at 13. There, he spent a year training until a former teammate told him Marseille was looking for a goalkeeper to replace reserve goalies Julien Fabri and Brice Samba, who had been sent on loan.

Mendy undertook tests at Marseille and was hired as the No. 4 ’keeper. In the southern city, he trained day in day out with Steve Mandanda and rebuilt his damaged confidence, getting playing time with the reserve squad.

“I reached a new level in Marseille,” he said. “I trained with the pros throughout the year, which you normally would not expect as a No. 4 ’keeper. It was proof that I performed well and made all the efforts required. It was a rewarding year. Training alongside players like Lassana Diarra, Abou Diaby... and winning duels against Steven Fletcher or Michy Batshuayi brought a lot to me.”

Mendy was then hired on a two-year deal by Reims, initially in a No. 2 role. He established himself as a regular starter last season during his side’s stroll to promotion, and is counted among the best in the topflight. Senegal summoned him for the first time last month for international duty. If he keeps playing so well, England might come calling again, this time for real.

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