Edouard Mendy believes saving his football career after a year on the dole has set him up to succeed at Chelsea.
Senegal goalkeeper Mendy joined the Blues in a £20million deal from Rennes last month, but back in 2014 he was without a club and fearing for his future in the sport.
The 28-year-old was forced to take unemployment benefit in France after being released by Cherbourg, and then his partner fell pregnant while he was battling to find a new club.
After a year in the wilderness and training with Le Havre’s reserves, Mendy secured a move to Marseille and the chance to resurrect his career.
Now the France-born stopper is Senegal and Chelsea’s number one, and admitted that year of adversity has proved the making of him.
“If someone had said to me six years ago when I didn’t have a club that I would end up here, I wouldn’t have even bothered looking at or listening to them,” said Mendy.
“I did genuinely have my doubts about whether I would carry on.
“But I look at it now and say that it’s thanks to those moments that I am where I am today, and my family has also been able to benefit from where I’ve got to with my football.
“Back then when I got the message from my agent at the time I started immediately to go back to the club where I trained when I was young, Le Havre, and I was training with the reserves there every morning.
“In the afternoon I would go to the gym or to the pitch with my brother, to practise shot stopping.
“I had to take unemployment support at that time so I could dedicate myself totally to football.
“It was really very difficult, because on the one had you had the anger of finding yourself without a club because of the agent who I was with.
“But then there’s also the disappointment of not being able to play at the weekend, not being able to do what you love, not being able to compete.
“And that’s really hard for a footballer.
“It was incredibly difficult and also my partner was expecting our first baby.
“And so the unemployment support wasn’t going to be enough for us, we needed something else, and so I did start looking for other work.
“But then I had the opportunity to go to Marseille and I was given a trial there.
“Fortunately for me it worked, and when it did it was like a complete relief for me.
“Because one year to go without football is an incredibly long time.
“I had many, many doubts during that time. But it was thanks to my family who helped so much in those moments to keep me strong.”
Chelsea’s technical director Petr Cech played a pivotal role in recommending Mendy to boss Frank Lampard.
Mendy revealed his pride in knowing his fellow former Rennes stopper had closely tracked his career, insisting he wants to repay the faith now he is settling into west London life.
Former Blues keeper Cech has been added to Chelsea’s Premier League squad this term as a Covid-19 precaution, but the 38-year-old will only come out of retirement in an emergency.
Mendy knows he can learn a lot from Cech’s mentoring, as he bids to cement himself as Chelsea’s first choice.
“Yes, I have been aware that Petr Cech has been watching my matches for a number of years,” said Mendy.
“It is very pleasing to hear that he has been watching me and saying that he liked my profile and the way I was performing.
“So after the season with Rennes, the offer came in from Chelsea and it is a very proud moment for me to join this club.
“Thanks to Petr and Christophe (Lollichon) for following me but it is clear that everyone here approved my signing.
“Now it is up to me to repay their interest in me, having brought me to the club.”