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Who is Ferland Mendy? The €48m-rated ‘Mbappe of left-backs’ signed by Real Madrid

5:00 am AEST 13/6/19
Ferland Mendy
The young full-back has been snapped up as a long-term replacement for Marcelo, having battled rejection from PSG and serious injury

If any club has expertise to call upon when it comes to world-class left-backs, it is Real Madrid.

For years, the club has called upon Marcelo, widely recognized as the best attacking full-back the game has to offer. He's won it all during his time in Madrid, including four La Liga crowns and four Champions League titles.

Although the search for a long-term replacement has likely taken Real Madrid to all four corners of the globe, the club has not had to look too far for the man who has emerged as a top target for the summer. That search has seen the club swoop for Ferland Mendy as the long-term answer for the club going forward.

A professional since 2015, when he broke through the ranks at Le Havre - the same club as the likes of Paul Pogba, Lassana Diarra and Riyad Mahrez were fostered - the 23-year-old has emerged as a key figure for Bruno Genesio’s side.

Mendy’s rise has been astronomical. At the age of 21, he had made just 12 league appearances, all in the second tier for Le Havre. Two and a half years later, he finds himself a full international for France and having played a starring role in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition throughout Lyon's Champions League push before a round of 16 defeat at the hands of Barcelona.

“It’s true that everything’s happened very quickly since Le Havre, but I tell myself that it must go quicker!” he told France Football in January. “I have to continue with this dynamic.”

Mendy spent time in Paris Saint-Germain’s youth ranks but was released due to a form of arthritis in his hip, forcing him to miss a good deal of football when he was aged 15, while he also lost his father at a young age.

“I’ve not had an easy journey, it’s true, but I’ve never given up,” he added. “Now I’m here. This burning desire to succeed, it’s in my character. I’ve always been like that.”

Although a self-assured individual, sometimes branded as arrogant, Mendy is not someone who habitually speaks to the media. Instead, he expresses himself on the field, where he is a tireless piston down Lyon’s left flank.

Perhaps inevitably, given his name and role, he is compared to Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy, who broke through at Le Havre in the two campaigns before his namesake arrived in Normandy.

He offers a similar willingness to attack and comparable quality in the final third, even if this aspect of his game is not quite as polished as that of his compatriot.

His marginal deficit in terms of his final ball – and it is marginal – is made up for with greater tactical awareness and solidarity at the other end of the park. And in some regards he is technically sounder, possessing a particularly capable right foot

“He’s the Kylian Mbappe of the left-back role,” experienced agent Yvan Le Mee told France Football. “Contrary to popular belief, the left-back position is the most requested after that of a striker because they’re very difficult to find.

“Mendy is good offensively and defensively, which is very rare. Balanced guys, who are exciting going forward and very strong at the back, are very rare. At his age, there’s no-one better.

“Apart from Andy Robertson, who won’t move from Liverpool, there’s no such talented player in that role available, especially as Lucas Hernandez has a different profile.”  

He has already proven he can cut it against the best, shining as Lyon defeated Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad Stadium in September and turning in a level of performance that arguably made him the best left-back in the group stage of the Champions League.

Now, he faces up to the challenge of eventually replacing a legend and becoming another building block for a Real Madrid team looking to reinvent itself by bringing in the club's next great full-back.