This is taken from the GFFN 100, our leading 150-page FREE publication ranking the best 100 players in France, see the full list and read every profile right here.
Steve Mandanda can scarcely have done more to burnish his reputation as one of the all-time leading goalkeepers in the history of the French game. A World Cup winner, he also had a decorated and lengthy spell at Marseille, including reaching a European final and winning a Ligue 1 title, but the emergence of Pau López last season looked to have ended his career at the highest level of the game.
Cue Rennes’ haphazard search for a suitable replacement for Édouard Mendy, which had much to do with their not taking part in the Champions League this season. Mandanda was brought in to be a steady pair of hands, something that was necessary as the team had lost lead centre-back Nayef Aguerd and have relied mostly on the callow and sometimes wobbly pair of Joe Rodon and Arthur Theate.
And while Mandanda hasn’t exactly sparkled as he had at many points throughout his career at Marseille, he has been an improvement on previous number one Alfred Gomis, without impeding the development of promising understudy Doğan Alemdar, a player who’s already been capped by Turkey at just 19.
Although physically commanding, Mandanda’s reflexes aren’t what they once where, nor is his foot speed, but he still has enough about him to be a solid option for a club that is at once ambitious and in transition, like Rennes. Perhaps more important than what he contributes on the pitch, Mandanda’s leadership and experience off it have been vital, as, with Jonas Martin also having departed, there are precious few players whom one might consider a veteran presence in Bruno Génésio’s squad.
Intangibles, leadership, a calming influence, Mandanda has this all in spades, and with Rennes continuing to jockey for a place in the top three, faith in him looks to have been duly repaid. Having proved his ability to sustain this level, he can now gradually mentor Alemdar whilst also providing cover and improving the club’s situation whilst adding to his own legacy, making him deserving of another year in the 100.
Eric Devin | GFFN