Senegal are continuing their African Cup of Nations defence as they comfortably marched into the round of 16, the Roshn Saudi League sat down with Edouard Mendy to reflect on his move to the Kingdom, take a closer look at his relationships with the former Premier League rivals who he now calls his teammates in Jeddah and the ferocious support of the diehard Al Ahli fans.
It was an easy decision for Mendy when Al Ahli came calling for his services in the summer and it did not take much convincing to join the Jeddah giants.
“I had just made my time in Chelsea and in England. I had this opportunity to join this amazing project, for me I did not think too much, this was very simple for me and my family. We used to come to the Middle East so we are used to the culture and the people over here it was very easy and we are all happy," said Mendy.
“When Al Ahli called me, I saw that this was the biggest club in Saudi Arabia, with a big history, big fans also with a lot of expectations. I would not be coming here to go on holidays, I am here to win, to play in big games and finals and a big atmosphere and today I am not disappointed.”
Mendy joined the RSL with a host of other top international stars in the summer, and he feels that alongside the likes of N’golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and former Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema he can play an important role in shaping the next-generation of Saudi Arabian players.
“The team is young, with my age now I have experience, we are also here to help them (Saudi Arabian players) to train, and the way they have to think about football outside of the pitch we can see the improvement of the team because of the players and our experiences and it helps everybody.”
“You can see the big players that have signed here like N’golo, Sadio, Riyad, Benzema they have won like everything. They are sharing their experience and the Saudi players ask for that I think it is the perfect match.”
Al Ahli had a busy summer in securing the services of former Premier League stars Roberto Firmino and Mahrez and the former Chelsea keeper admitted that he has looked back at those previous clashes with his now-new teammates.
“It’s a big crazy because these players were my opponents, and we had to play big games! Like Bobby (Firmino) big finals in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, and Riyad in the Champions League Final so it’s crazy to play all together now, sometimes we laugh about the games we have played against and now we are all happy to play for this amazing club.”
Mahrez was perhaps the biggest coup for the Jeddah side in a busy summer, and the former Manchester City man has certainly taken to life in the RSL notching eight goals and seven assists in the first half of the season. For Mendy, the impact of the Algerian on the team has been huge, although he couldn’t resist mentioning that 2021 Champions League final win.
“I call him the maestro, he’s an important player for the team I don’t like to say that but in some teams, some players can make a difference at any time. Riyad is one, we are super lucky and super happy to have him. I played against Riyad against City and Algeria I think he won more than me, but I did win the Champions League which is the most important game!”
The Al Ahli stopper was also full of praise for Firmino and feels that his leadership qualities have been vital as the Jeddah powerhouse looks to make an immediate impact in the RSL after promotion last season.
“If you talk about football you have to talk about Bobby, he’s simply a fantastic player with an amazing touch and amazing positioning. He’s a real leader like Riyad we are really happy to have him.”
Al Ahli fans are hailed as some of the loudest in the RSL, and their boisterous support has been seen home and away this campaign. The first game of the season saw a full house at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Sports City, and that moment certainly has stayed with Mendy.
“I will never forget the stadium was full, the people were waiting for more than one hour. We made the line in front of them and they started singing and you have goosebumps it’s an amazing feeling.”
Mendy hailed the ferocious support of the flag-waving ultras, adding that it pushes Al Ahli to give their all in RSL game.
“For me, it’s crazy to play in this atmosphere. As a kid, when you grow up and you play football you want to live in this atmosphere you want to feel this energy. I have the chance to live this every week, when we play home or away it’s the same the stadium is green.”
“You can feel that the club really means something for them, and we have to make them proud every time we are on the pitch. When we hear those songs we want to give our lives on the pitch!”
Mendy will now be turning his attention to the African Cup of Nations, but rest assured that the keeper will soon be returning to Al Ahli and using his experience to push the Jeddah giants to great heights backed home and away by a fervent green army of supporters.