After the departure of N’Golo Kanté from Leicester City on 16th July 2016, Leicester fans all over the country were pondering over the suitable replacement for the exceptional performances that Kanté had put on show throughout the 15/16 Premier League season.
Claudio Ranieri, prior to the sale of Kanté, acquired OGC Nice’s captain Nampalys Mendy for a then club-record £13 million on 3rd July 2016, which was then broken by Ahmed Musa (£16 million) five days later.
Mendy has been compared to Kanté’s style of play in regards to his rigorous effort off the ball & break-up play in addition to his simple distribution. During his time at Monaco Mendy (24) was referred to as a “carbon copy” of French international Claude Makélélé by scout Didier Christophe.
During his time at Monaco, Mendy worked with Ranieri who was named managed in 2012. Although Mendy only played under Ranieri just under a year, the Tinkerman was a fond admirer of the young Frenchman.
After the sale of N’Golo Kanté to Chelsea, Ranieri was constantly asked how Leicester would fill this void. In an interview with Sky Sports, Ranieri replied, “We can replace N’Golo, we have many new players, Nampalys can do a great job, he is young, hardworking & plays for the team, I know him very well from Monaco.”
Many pundits have made lazy comparisons between Kanté and Mendy, simply because they come from the same country, the same league and supposedly the same position.
Make no mistake, Nampalys Mendy is fundamentally a different player N’Golo Kanté. Mendy does not have the engine that Kanté does, he sits much further deep where he prevents the opposition from getting efforts on goal rather than disrupting their build-up play, runs with the ball far less, but arguably has better vision and a knack for a pass.
So if you are expecting Mendy to fill the Kanté void in a like-for-like manner, you should get over your disappointment now. What Mendy can offer Leicester is the beginning of a playing style revolution, one that orientates towards more build-up play and more, long-term dominance in the midfield battle rather than the split-second interception play and punts forward displayed by Kanté.
Although Leicester City suffered a late blow to the hands of Manchester United being beaten 2-1 by a Zlatan Ibrahimović header, it was a chance to see new players such as Ahmed Musa, Ron Zieler & Nampalys Mendy. Ranieri opted to start without both his major summer signings Mendy & Musa, however called upon Mendy in the 63rd minute whilst the game was in the balance.
Mendy showed great discipline during his short performance by not diving into tackles, staying back & maintaining the balance whilst attacking & simple distribution. Mendy ended the game with 72.2% pass completion, with 14 touches of the ball. It may have not been the most exhilarating performance, however Mendy gave Leicester City fans a small cameo of what they can expect next season.
Many journalists & pundits after the game suggested if Nampalys Mendy would have started the game would there have been a different outcome? At halftime Rio Ferdinand (BT Sport pundit) said Leicester lacked “bite” in central midfield and suggested for Lingard’s goal, that if Kanté or someone similar such as Mendy would have been present, the goal could have been easily avoided.
Despite not featuring from the start against Manchester United at Wembley, many expect Nampalys Mendy to make his full Premier League debut in the opening Premier League game on Saturday 13th August away at Hull. Living up to N’Golo Kanté’s reputation last season will sure be a tough challenge, however in a short pre-season, Nampalys Mendy has shown fans what he is capable of through his style of play.
K.R. with N.D.