The following article is extracted from Get French Football News’s 200,000 word guide to the world of French football, The Get French Football News 100 which focused on ranking individuals’ performances over the course of 2018 as a calendar year. To download the whole guide, click here.
The following piece was written in December 2018 and published on the 1st January 2019. Ferland Mendy was not included in the 2017 edition and ranked 29th in our index out of French football’s 100 best players in this year’s Get French Football News 100.
Back in the summer of 2017, while still at Le Havre, Ferland Mendy was being linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City.
Fast forward to the present day and the now Lyon man is touted with a January transfer to the likes of Barcelona and Juventus. That is the kind of difference 18 months can make but more importantly, demonstrates how his growth has accelerated over the course of 2018.
The start of the year was really his breakthrough, after a number of starts replacing the injured Marçal saw him pin his flag to the mast of left-back. By the end of the winter break, he had edged in front of the former Guingamp to make his spot in the starting line-up his own.
While his impact did not quite push them into second, Lyon still attained their goal of qualifying in the Champions’ League places. With that came calls for him to make the French national team World Cup squad, especially given the slow recovery of his name-sake Benjamin, but they eventually went unheeded.
Into the new season and the 23-year-old has picked up where he left off. A consistent performer who is now unquestionably the number one choice in his position at the club, there are now more eyes on him than ever given his excellent performances in the Champions’ League group stages.
Not only did he do well in Les Gones’ two strong performances against Manchester City, he came up with the assist for Tanguy N’Dombélé against Hoffenheim that at the time, put them 2-0 ahead.
Performing on the biggest stage also meant he finally got a call up to the France squad in November, after injury saw Benjamin Mendy pull out. He made his debut in the friendly against Uruguay in a performance that was so impressive that it will likely not see him overlooked by Lucas Digne again any time soon.
Mendy is a modern full-back, to the extent that he has even played at left midfield this season. The Frenchman is most effective in the opponent’s half, driving to the by-line before either pulling the ball back to a team-mate in space, putting in a cross or going for goal himself.
In fact, both the goals he has scored this season show how advanced up the pitch he is. For a recent equaliser against Caen, he was level with the forwards before the ball was switched to him and as for a header in a victory over Monaco, he was practically positioned as a wide forward.
His usefulness in those positions and why he has been so successful is also due to those in front of him. Whether it be Memphis Depay, Houseem Aouar, Nabil Fékir or Maxwel Cornet, all prefer to play in a more central role, which leaves Mendy acres of space to advance into and hold the team’s width at the same time.
Added to that is his willingness to take players on, whether that be by dribbling around them or bursting past them with pace. What is so good to see is his positivity in those attacking areas, he always seems to want to beat at least one opponent to take them out of the game before passing the ball on and he never settles for a recycling of possession.
What really helps him excel in trying to beat his man is that he can use both feet with equal success. His ability to shift the ball between his left and his right peg without missing a beat can be so disorientating for his opponents, knowing that should they show him inside then he could quite easily go for a shot or cut back for an in-swinging cross as easily as swinging in the out-swinging ball or pull back with his left.
That has also benefitted Lyon, who could rely on him playing on the opposite flank during a mini injury-crisis down the right earlier this season. It could have been his best game of the campaign in fact, driving past defenders at will but the general level of comfort he harbours all over the pitch demonstrates how much he has improved under Bruno Génésio’s stewardship.
As an anecdote, he hilariously committed a foul throw against Lille after being confused by some coloured-out markings on their pitch, therefore a small investment in an eye test might be recommended.
As for the future, the next six months will be interesting to see exactly what lies ahead for Mendy. Arguably third-choice for the national team, he may feel a move away to a bigger club is needed in order to force his way up the pecking order ahead of Euro 2020.
However, leaving in January could have real adverse effects on his current growth pattern. Clubs like Barcelona and Juventus have well-established full backs that he would not immediately displace, so would it be worth the risk to take your name out of the headlines for an immediate transfer or complete the season with Lyon before looking at potential new destinations in the summer?
All depends on how those big guns want to move forward into 2019 but one thing is for sure, Lyon fans would like to keep hold of him for a little longer, even if he cannot quite work out where the throw-in line is.