Just like his pal Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy was one of the show-stoppers for Monaco in both of their Champions League games against City last season. The France international really showed what we’ve lacked for perhaps as many as three seasons in the left-back department, and after several years of begging from the City fans, we’ve finally secured an attacking full-back out of the top drawer. After the departure of Gaël Clichy and Kolarov’s renaissance at centre-half, the need for a left-back has only been magnified. Seemingly, and after the Alves fiasco, the Walker and Mendy deals were probably the least Txiki could do to save himself from Pep’s wrath.
At barely 23 years of age, Mendy has emerged as one of the most sought-after players of the summer transfer window. Signed by Monaco in June 2016 from Marseille for a meagre £11m, the rumours are that Monaco look set to make a stunning £30m profit after just one season at the club. It’s incredibly impressive business, but there can be no doubt that for just short of £90m, City have acquired two of Monaco’s brightest young stars who will be mainstays in the team for some time. Testament to this is the fact that Barcelona, Liverpool, United and Juventus all had interest in Mendy, but once again, as we have seen regularly in the past year, the Guardiola factor just proved slightly too big a pull to ignore.
Having only just played over 3,000 minutes for the principality outfit, from the outside it does seem strange that Mendy’s price tag has more than trebled. But this season the Paris born defender has truly been among the best left-backs in world football. Incredibly quick, intelligent and technically fantastic, Mendy is capable at both attacking and defending. He got five assists from this year, but I really feel he could build on this number as his crossing is a really big part of his game. Moreover, Mendy’s 6ft 1 frame should help him adapt to the physicality of the Premier League; he’ll have the extra dimension of being able to win aerial duels when teams lump balls into the box against us, as they so often do. Last season Mendy won a respectable 57.1% of his aerial duels compared to Clichy’s 42.3%. Mendy may need to fine tune his passing though – an average completion rate of 76% of passing won’t go down well with Pep.
Though, like always, stats don’t tell the whole story. Last season we were let down by our full-backs and I think in some ways they were our weakest areas in both defensive and offensive output. But just watching Mendy, constantly aware of the perfect attacking moment, I really have hope that we can see a return of a really good set of full-backs with Mendy working in tandem with the winger in front, presumably Leroy, to cause devastation down the left hand side from which Sané got so little help from behind this year. A small thing as well is that Mendy ALWAYS plays with a smile on his face. Although that means absolutely nothing, we’ve let a few good guys go this window thus far (including the nicest man of all time Pablo Zabaleta!), so it’s vaguely heart-warming that we’re replacing good guys with good guys.
Anis Bazza on Benjamin Mendy:
If there ever was a prototype left-back for Manchester City to sign then it would have to be Benjamin Mendy. Athletic, technical and with a wicked left foot, Mendy’s arrival could be the biggest upgrade we make this summer. Honed in the famous Le Havre academy and a student of the nutty professor Marco Bielsa at Marseille, Mendy will be no stranger to expansive and attacking football if he arrives at City. The Frenchman was a key component of Monaco’s attack as a direct and wide full-back yet he also has experience playing much narrower. The tactical options afforded to Guardiola will be bountiful and so too the benefits reaped by Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané – a far cry from the static and stale capabilities of Gaël Clichy and Aleks Kolarov.
Time for a small tangent. At the time of signing, Mendy is 23, as is Bernardo Silva. Sané and Jesus were 20 and 19 respectively, and John Stones was 22. Gündoğan was 25, meaning so far only Nolito, who looks on his way out anyway, and Bravo, who looks set to be second choice keeper to 22-year-old Ederson, can be classed as ‘old’ signings by Pep. This is perhaps one of my favourite things about Guardiola’s time at the club so far, as he is successfully getting rid of older players and replacing them with really young players who are full of quality and could be at City for at least 8-10 years to come. Say what you will about Pep so far, but the squad will undoubtedly be in significantly better shape than the one he inherited. Despite the sums of money paid, I’m not sure had we had any other manager in the world, all these young talents would have joined City.
This may well be the signing of the summer, and the window isn’t even open. Whilst we’ve bagged Mendy, Silva, Walker and Ederson, City have now replaced several, older outgoing players with just a couple of young talents whose athleticism, energy and pure ability will do wonders for our squad. The depth of this squad looks better already even though the numbers might not show this, and we really seem to look like, on paper at least, to compete in several competitions. Mendy is better than most left-backs in the league and is only 23, and this signing is an exciting one as City now have one of the biggest defensive prospects tied up for his best years. Well done, Txiki. Eventually.