Head off to an international tournament, and it is quite likely that you leave in the off-season. However, for African footballers, heading off during the middle of the traditional European football season is commonplace. Every two years, the African Cup of Nations takes place – and it gives Africans an immense source of pride. For African players, being able to head back to their home continent to compete for honours is special. When you play for a nation as football-mad as Senegal, though, the expectation is simple: add a star to the jersey.
Until now, though, that was never possible. Having lost finals in the past and disappointed at other AFCONs, Senegal never lifted the trophy. Now, though, Edouard Mendy has not only lifted the trophy for the first time – he even won the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award. The arrival of Mendy into the kind of form that seen him sign for Chelsea in the first place has been a game-changer for the Senegal national team.
Now, paired up with the likes of Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal have a spine that can compete with any team in world football. Upon arrival back at training, though, Mendy was mobbed by his clearly delighted teammates.
A rapturous standing ovation awaited the Senegal no.1 as he walked into meet the team ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup event in Abu Dhabi. The keeper, 29, was mobbed by his teammates and given a passionate response from his club colleagues.
After playing a key role in winning the 2022 AFCON tournament – saving penalties in the Final shootout and setting up star man Mane to win the tournament – Mendy now looks to have his mind focused on winning the Club World Cup for Chelsea.
Mendy the catalyst for more club and international success
Ask any talented team what it is like to have a great outfield setup but a poor keeper, and they will tell you the difference it makes. Ask Chelsea; the Blues were suffering under the pressure of watching world record goalkeeper signing Kepa struggle. The season appeared to be faltering, costing club legend Frank Lampard his job. In came Thomas Tuchel, and not long after the German came the real arrival of Edouard Mendy.
Taking the first team gloves from Kepa, Mendy set about showing everyone just how good he was with excellent performances in the league and in the UEFA Champions League. At 29, he is in his professional peak and looks set to continue adding more trophies to a growing cabinet.
Even ask his international teammate Mane. The Senegalese watched as his club side lost in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final thanks to a blunder by Loris Karius. Brazil international Alisson Becker replaced the German, though, and the Reds soon won the UCL and the Premier League.
For Chelsea, knowing they have arguably the best goalkeeper in world football in nets is a blessing. With a new lift to come from winning the AFCON title, Blues fans can look forward to even more success arriving with Mendy involved.