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Benjamin Mendy: Big interview

HIGH SPIRITS: Training with a smile on his face.

HIGH SPIRITS: Training with a smile on his face.

It’s no secret that Benjamin Mendy is a bit of a joker!

What you may not know is that his comedic personality and prankster ways almost cost him his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

At the age of 13, he was warned to curb his behaviour and knuckle down. A reconsideration of his position was also on the cards.

Speaking exclusively to Man.City.com, the full-back recalls: “I first joined an Academy when I was 13.

“In my first year there, I thought: we will all become friends, laugh and make jokes, mess a little like teenagers do… but I had to open my eyes.

“I was summoned and told that if I kept carrying on like that, I would be released.

“At the time, they told me I didn’t have the level because I was recruited as a striker in the beginning.

“I had this ability to run down the pitch – to recover the ball and counter-attack.

“After that, they put me as a left winger and then left back. As I was going for the ball deeper, they put me as a defender. I couldn’t go further down otherwise I would have finished as a goalkeeper!”

Despite the uncertainty, Mendy feels that conversation – and the positional switch – proved to be a turning point in his career, which has brought successful spells at Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco before arriving at City.

“Clearly, it was,” he continued. “They told me: if I don’t wake up, I would be gone at the end of the season so I woke up.

“The first year at the Academy was the hardest of my career so far. After that, I had the chance to have great coaches that helped me a lot. I learned a lot from them.

“From that point, I started to have a string of successes. We won a junior cup, the National Cup with Normandy and then caps with the French team at youth level followed.

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“I was quite young to have realised that it was make-or-break for my career but I am someone who pays attention and listens. Once I have been told this, I just got it. I knew exactly what I wanted and I like to achieve my ambitions.

“When I was 17 or 18 years old, I joined Marseille – a big club. It wasn’t easy but I had the chance to have good people around me to support me and look after me.”

Mendy credits much of his success to former coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose approach shares similarities with Pep Guardiola’s.

“In terms of football, it is the same family,” the defender declared. “I think they both have the same spirit; the same things in terms of tactics – they have the same way of playing.

“It’s the same school so it helps a lot. I am now someone who likes things to be easy.

“I know that working with Pep is the best for me – my development and my future.”

Part of a Monaco side who became one of Europe’s most exciting sides to watch last season, Mendy also worked under Leonardo Jardim.

Mendy has a lot of respect for his former boss, whose man-management, the Frenchman continues, was pivotal.

“I called him ‘Tactico’,” Mendy explained. “It’s true that in terms of tactics – to adapt to the opponent – he is really strong.

“He played a big part in Monaco’s success that season. He was very close to the players. There was a lot of love in that team.

“With a coach like that, we all wanted to fight for him when we were on the pitch – whether he was in the dugout or in the stand if he was suspended!

“For us, it was the same – like he was with us on the pitch.

“For me, Marcelo Bielsa and Leonardo Jardim are two important people in my career and the way it has panned out.”

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