For Chelsea fans, the arrival of Thomas Tuchel as coach was the catalyst to turning things around so drastically. The decision to sack Frank Lampard was seen as harsh, but the arrival of the out of work German brought about a tactical reconfiguration that eventually led to European glory. It is also seen Chelsea contest the FA Cup Final.
However, a huge change in fortune came in the backline, when Tuchel gave up on Kepa and brought in his own man.
Much like another Blues keeper who went down in history, Edouard Mendy arrived from Rennes in France. The Ligue 1 side have a history of having gems in their ranks, and Mendy looks every bit the gem that most had hoped upon his arrival.
Incredible form across 2021 had seen Mendy establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world – the undisputed #1 for the European champions. However, that was not enough to earn him a place on the 30-man shortlists for the 2021 Ballon d’Or celebration.
Blues fans were naturally aghast, especially given some of the names to make the final voting. However, one keeper was nominated – Gianluigi Donnarumma, unsurprisingly – further showing the total lack of focus on the importance of keepers.
Where Chelsea fans did not expect to gain support, though, was in the form of a Liverpool forward. Both teams have enjoyed a tempestuous rivalry since the early 2000s, and today would likely list one another as among their most reviled players. However, it was Sadio Mane, an international teammate of Mendy, who swung to his defence to discuss the snub.
What did Sadio Mane say about Edouard Mendy?
Speaking about the fact his teammate at the international level, and with whom he will hope to lift the 2022 African Cup of Nations, Mane was clear that it was not fair. After Senegal took care of Namibia in an international game, Mane was asked about the omission of Mendy. There, he said: “It is unacceptable. I do not understand, these are things to deplore.”
This was backed up by another Senegal star in Kalidou Koulibaly. Speaking about the snub, the Napoli centre-back stated: “It’s a real shame that Mendy isn’t one of them. He is the first African goalkeeper to win the Champions League!
On why he felt this was the case, the defender said: “We must continue to work and move forward. We have to do the double [the work] of some people to be well judged. Edouard is a very positive person. We talked about it together. He will continue to fight to be part of it. For me, he has a place among these 30 players.”
It is not often that players are so forthright in their own thoughts on the shortlist. However, it would be a surprise not to have heard anyone speak; Mendy has been, on form, one of the best players in the world for all of 2021. Why that is not earning the recognition it should is a hard one to fathom – out of all the keepers in the world to match the level of Donnarumma, though, Mendy was arguably closest.