Last summer, when there was first talk of a Mendy moving to Real Madrid, many thought it was the Manchester City left-back and World Cup winner, but no. Zinedine Zidane plumped for a defender who’d just started to stand out in Ligue 1 and had just been included in the France national team for the first time.
Zidane asked to sign Ferland Mendy because he knew the 24-year-old could be the player to replace Marcelo at left-back. He cost Los Blancos 45 million euros, yes, but once again Zidane has shown his eye for talent and proved that he can lead Real Madrid through this transition period.
For the last decade, the Real Madrid left-back has been Marcelo but, since Mendy arrived last summer and overcame a difficult adaptation period, the Frenchman has become the master of the position because of his solidity.
It’s not easy to drop Marcelo either. There’s no one like the Brazilian when it comes to creativity, to being an attacking threat from full-back. Mendy comes into the equation with different strengths: power, speed and solidity in both defence and attack. He had to overcome critics to start with for his different way of playing, but he’s convinced everyone in the last six months. Nobody gets past him.
Mendy has built a wall at left-back. As a result, Sergio Ramos has had less to do coming from the left wing and is able to defend in the middle. All that means Thibaut Courtois is more protected and the defence is in order. That is without forgetting the work Fede Valverde and Casemiro put in defensively in midfield. Mendy has dazzled the Real Madrid dressing room with his natural ability to defend.
The former Lyon player isn’t the best with the ball at his feet, but this physical superiority allows him to anticipate and surprise his opponents, not only in defence but also in attack. He put in two dangerous crosses into the box against Osasuna which didn’t end up in goals like one did in the Madrid derby. But they did underline the Frenchman’s strengths going forward, as well as his natural power and speed.
All these changes have meant that Real Madrid have conceded just league 14 goals this season – the least of any team in Europe’s big leagues – and they’re doing it as league leaders.