January is a busy month for Cypriot teams. Their often hasty dealings during the summer bear fruit during the winter. It’s funnier that way. It seems that agents entrenched in a club’s circle can actually be wrong about the quality of one of their clients.
AEL could not possibly be an exception, especially when considering that they let their manager Ivaylo Petev let go in November. He has been replaced by former Apollon Limassol manager Christakis Christoforou. That in itself deserves an article of its own, but we’ll focus on a different man here.
Christoforou has opted for both experience and versatility in defence. A limited budget, player exits (center back Ricardo Sousa recently left for Gil Vicente) and an underwhelming first round leave little room for unknown quantities or positionally rigid additions.
AEL have found, and promptly signed, a player that fulfills both of those requirements. Bernard Mendy may not be as exciting or as a flashy forward, or even as well-known as some of the players that have strolled through the league, but his signing should not be underestimated.
Mendy has had productive, active seasons for the best part of the last 16 years. His career so far involves stints at Bolton Wanderers, Hull City, Caen and, most notably, Paris Saint-Germain, the club which helped Mendy elevate his career. His performances at the Parisian club did not go unnoticed. He played for Raymond Domenech’s France four times and was unlucky to miss out on the 2006 World Cup, with Willy Sagnol being first choice in right-back at the time.
Perhaps his most famous moment in a France shirt came against Brazil that very year. Being stood off by Roberto Carlos near the halfway line, the Frenchman blitzed past him down the wing, making it seem as if Carlos was flat-footed and cumbersome. Mendy steered inwards, entered the box from the right and skillfully cut the ball back to the cleverly positioned Sylvain Wiltord. Wiltord’s first time left-footed effort went wide, denying Mendy a famous assist.
It would be unreasonable to expect Mendy to possess that lightning quick pace 9 years later, but he should, on paper at least, prove more than adequate in Cyprus, where, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the average player’s physical attributes are not exactly daunting.
If you’re a proponent of the second assist statistic, chalk one up for Bernard Mendy. During the 2 -2 draw in the cup game against Ethnikos Achnas, he fed Caló, who in turn assisted Sardinero’s goal.
Provided he doesn’t feature out of position too often, such as in his first game in an AEL shirt, Mendy should prove to be a more than worthwhile addition to the squad. On top of his skills as a defender, his overall experience will be greatly appreciated in a team sorely missing Edwin Ouon’s presence at the back.
Ouon has only today signed for fierce rivals Apollon Limassol. Both teams have sought to solidify their defensive options and with good cause. It will be interesting to see how both Limassol teams fair after their respective squad alterations. Apollon are 3 points ahead of Apoel at the top, whilst AEL find themselves down in 7th. AEL have been improving at a steady, although perhaps slow rate since the managerial change up, and it will be some time still for Christoforou’s philosophy to be fully implemented. AEL are 5 points away from a top 6 spot. They will undoubtedly strive to achieve a top 6 finish and enter the playoff stage. That will enable them to fight for continental qualification, which, along with winning the domestic cup competition, is surely their number one target. Considering Mendy’s background and first few performances, I think AEL could have done considerably worse in the market. I strongly believe that Mendy will improve after proper integration into the squad. From there it’s up to his teammates to help push AEL towards their goals.