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Benjamin Mendy talks Marcelo Bielsa, Pep Guardiola, Leonardo Jardim & Didier Deschamps

In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche last month, Manchester City and France left-back Benjamin Mendy discussed his relationships with the managers in his career so far.

On Pep Guardiola:

At Man City, Raheem Sterling teases me sometimes: “Where is your father?” The first time I did not understand he was talking about Pep. It was the first day, I had just joined the team in Los Angeles. He gave me a hug me and kissed me on the forehead. We had only talked on the phone during the tough negotiations with Monaco.

To be fair, I don’t know if I am using the formal or informal way when I talk to him because in English “you” means both. Anyway, everybody uses his first name. He doesn’t want us to call him “Boss” or “coach“.

We are all aware that he has the keys but he would like to be considered as an average member of the staff. He is a hard worker who does everything to put us in good conditions. He likes football too much. It is like an upgraded version of Marcelo Bielsa. By the way, when we talked about Bielsa I saw the gratitude in his eyes. Before the derby against Manchester United, he gave us an emotional speech about the supporters, the short distance between their stadium and ours…

He talks in English with the group, but with me, he tries to speak a few words in French. It is very basic: “ça va ?” (“what’s up ?”), “on va manger” (“let’s eat“) or “il y a entraînement” (“time for training“). When he teaches me something, he wants me to translate it for him so he can improve his French. So I am turning into his coach as well.

On Leonardo Jardim:

In 2017, after our defeat against Manchester City (5-3 in the Champions League round of sixteen), we all came back to training devastated. The coach did not understand why: “What’s the matter? We scored three goals at the Etihad, don’t you think that we can score at home too?” Then, he told us he already had the tactic for the second leg. Ten days later we won 3-1 and the first City attempt occurred at the 60th minute. He outplayed them so well I nicknamed him “el tactico”. As the season went on, we realised he knew how to outplay all of our opponents. Jardim did a lot of tactical practice with the ball, and showed us a lot of videos to analyse the rival teams. He could predict the movements of our rivals. At a basic level, his style relies on aggressiveness.

When he speaks, he does a lot of movements with his hands to illustrate his ideas.

From the first friendly games, we were hungry, we wanted to beat everyone. With him, you must not be afraid of contact. And if you are not a hundred percent focused, you’re out. With Kylian (Mbappé), he was using the carrot and stick method. He is incredible in terms of human relationships. We spent some amazing moments together, nobody wanted to leave him. And not only because of his funny way of speaking French…

On Marcelo Bielsa: 

I like mysterious characters, so I challenged myself to understand him. I did not hesitate to ask him some questions, especially during the individual video sessions. And when he starts talking about football, he cannot stop. It was so thrilling to listen to his stories that I would lose the sense of time. We have a very special connection now. He congratulated me when I became Champion with Monaco and I told him when I was on the verge of going to Manchester City.

I needed his point of view. He believed in me. He once told me that I was going to become one of the best left-backs in the world in front of the whole team at “la Commanderie” (OM’s training ground). Everyone was staring at me, I smiled but he was very serious. We experienced incredible moments with him. One day he said: “let’s train until the sun goes down”, and we did it. Another day, we were training poorly, so he took a ball and stared at it. He said: “Lads, all the work we are doing is for him. Video, dietetics, sleep, everything is for him. Why would you sacrifice your lives playing football if you do not even train correctly?”

His words never let me indifferent.

When we were training our finishing against the goalkeeper, we only had two chances. Gignac thought it was not enough but Marcelo refused saying “During the match, you will probably just have one or two chances to put it into the back of the net.” So when the game started, we were all ready.

He controls everything.

On Didier Deschamps:

When I got my knee injury (in September 2017), he was among the people who sent me a comforting message. He is very close to all the players. He built a real group with a lot of cohesion. Those links helped us clinch the World Cup.  He pushes us to give our best, not for us but for the team. He behaves like a leader. He is a winner, just like the player he was.

Well, I wasn’t born when he won the Champions League in 1993, but I have seen some pictures and videos on Instagram when he used to play for Juventus. He already had this ability to motivate.

A.D.

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