Tuesday 25 June 2019

Mendy riding crest of wave after triumph

Benjamin Mendy
Benjamin Mendy

Steve Brenner

Benjamin Mendy cannot stop smiling. With an injury that wrecked last season now behind him and a World Cup winner's medal in his pocket, Manchester City's £52m full-back is full of beans.

The 24-year-old played only 40 minutes in Russia as France won the trophy, and made just enough Premier League appearances to earn a medal.

"I have the medal in my pocket," smiled Mendy who said he takes it everywhere. "Before the World Cup I said to the dressing room, 'If I win I'll come back with the medal'. This is my skin now. For four years it's my skin for life. In four years we have a new World Cup but now we are the kings.

"Before we were going (to Russia), everybody was talking about their country. I said that you'll see the French win, but some other guys said 'no'. After we played we spoke but every time it's with respect.

"When we won against Argentina I spoke with Kun [Sergio Aguero] straight after the game with a text. When England won their quarter-final, I spoke with Raz [Raheem Sterling] and Kyle [Walker]. Everything is like this. So when I come back I don't go 'waaaaaaah!'. I say 'hi' and we speak."

Mendy made just one appearance for Les Bleus, in the dead rubber group match with Denmark, but was delighted to be part of history. "For the World Cup you don't care. It's better if you're playing but it was an amazing moment with the team and the staff," he said.

"We are a big family and we knew what we wanted to do - to win the World Cup - and it's what we did. It was amazing to go back to Paris. If you play or you don't play, I enjoyed it. Yeah, we had a good party afterwards. It'll be a day of my life forever."

Mendy capped a nightmare first season in the Premier League by recovering from a cruciate knee injury sustained in September. He made a comeback at the end of City's title procession just in time to jump on the plane to France.

He joined up with Pep Guardiola's side in the US ahead of their clash with Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup, in the early hours of this morning, and is hopeful of being fit for the club's season-opener at Arsenal. Of last season's injury travails, he said: "Really, I didn't have any low moments. When I go to the hospital some people [are worse than] me.

"I asked before my surgery whether I could go to the World Cup. The surgeon said, 'I'm not a magician, but normally yes.' That was my goal."

Seeing old friend Paul Pogba, his cross-city rival in Manchester, excel during France's campaign made it even more special.

"Playing with him in the national team is a dream," Mendy said. "Sometimes we spoke about this when we were younger, about 13, and now we are in the France team. It's amazing."

Not even the prospect of facing some sharks at a Miami aquarium can sour his mood. "I want to swim with them but I can't!"

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