Le50 2017 – Ferland Mendy

Mendy HAC

Paul Pogba. Riyad Mahrez. Steve Mandanda. Vikash Dhorasoo. Lassana Diarra. Gueida Fofana. Benjamin Mendy. The list of talented players who have come through the ranks at Le Havre goes on. So much so that it seems the club is now running out of original names and positions. And so the latest player who promises to follow left back Benjamin Mendy off the conveyor belt is left back Ferland Mendy.

Mendy has been making waves this summer mercato after an impressive first full season in Le Havre’s first team. Having just turned 22, this could be seen as a relatively late start, as the transfer policies and investment in youth of French clubs in general and of Le Havre in particular usually encourage earlier blooding in the first team. In Mendy’s case this could be attributed to a serious injury earlier in his career.

Having joined the PSG youth team aged just 10, a bad hip injury kept him out of the game for seven months: “at first, they said that that was it for my footballing career”. PSG showed patience at first but Mendy had unsurprisingly fallen behind his age group and was let go, eventually finding his way to Le Havre via Mantes-la-Jolie.

Having made his debut late in the 2014/15 season and backed that up with 11 appearances (and one assist) last year, it has been in 2016/17 that he has really made his mark, playing a total of 35 Ligue 2 matches (starting all but one of them) and contributing greatly to the team’s defensive solidity – Le Havre had, by a good distance, the best defensive record in the division, despite finishing in only eighth place. His performances did not go unrecognised by his peers: Mendy was named left back in the UNFP Ligue 2 Team of the Season.

Nowadays it seems that all full backs are expected to contribute going forward as well as (and in some cases to the detriment of) their defensive responsibilities. Mendy has proven himself more than capable in this side of his game too, contributing two goals and an impressive five assists in the last campaign. Predominantly left-footed but clearly able to use his right effectively as well, he is comfortable making runs ball at feet, his crossing ability is impressive and he uses his low centre of gravity and muscly frame effectively to hold off opponents in both the defensive and attacking sectors of the pitch.

Unsurprisingly for one so keen to push forward, he can be caught out of position at times, though uses his speed to recover. His discipline could also do with some fine-tuning (eight yellow cards last season). But these are expected weaknesses for a defender who has just completed his rookie season and he looks well set to follow his namesake to higher and better things. Of the inevitable comparisons with Benjamin, Ferland says “people say that we have the same game but I don’t think so. And he is a great player today. I have proven nothing yet”.

A good attitude from Mendy, who is unafraid of self-criticism, saying of his season “I’ve not been as good in the second half [of 2016/17] but it’s been OK overall. I’ve improved in terms of distribution, going forward. I need to work more defensively, on the tactical side, crossing, the final pass, that kind of thing”.

With one year remaining on his contract, Le Havre were certain to cash in on Mendy this summer and, with suitors rumoured to have included Bordeaux, Lille, Brighton and West Brom, Lyon beat them all to his signature, signing him for five years, for 5 million Euros plus bonuses. It is a brave move on Mendy’s part since he is likely to play understudy to another new arrival at left back, Fernando Marçal. Mendy has already shown the strength of character to overcome bigger challenges; he will no doubt relish this latest test.

Jeremy Smith

After this profile was written, Mendy signed a five-year deal with Olympique Lyonnais.

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