Are England and Premier League, French footballers ultimate Heaven? Many of them think so; many of them had a wonderful time up there, but also many of them came back disillusioned after a heartbreaking english experience.
Steve Mandanda, on Crystal Palace’s payroll since the beginning of this season, is already dreaming a speedy come back to his former club in Marseilles, just like the former West Ham player, Dimitri Payet.
Mandanda’s transfer from the Phocian club to London was close to perfection; Marseille’s faithful let their iconic custodian go without hard feelings and the Kinshasa born was met favorably by the Eagles fans. Alan Pardew‘s warm welcome showed how much he appreciated the new signing when the English manager admitted that the club had signed the man who pushed France’s captain Hugo Lloris, to work very hard to keep his place of number one goalkeeper.
The newcomer didn’t have to wait long before taking injured Wayne Hennessey‘s place between the sticks ; the Frenchman played nine games before a come back to France in November to join Les Bleus‘ World Cup International break .
When the french international left England, the club’s results weren’t the ones that Alan Pardew expected; a shocking defense, conceding goals galore and one must admit that Mandanda was responsable for several of them. Of course, nine games are not enough to judge the player, but goalkeepers are more exposed than the field players.
Unfortunately, his bad Karma followed him in France; injured during training in Clairefontaine, the Bleus’ training ground, he had to have surgery and take several weeks off the pitch.
During that time things had changed in his club; Alan Pardew, the Francophil manager(remember Pardew’s last club Newcastle, where the fans were singing “la Marseillaise” and most of the players were Francophones?) was replaced by “big Sam” Allardyce , great fan of “Made in Britain” players plus a new goalkeepers’coach, who knew Hennessey(!) very well!
Since then, the french goalkeeper has been declared able to play and started to train normally with his teammates. Since then, the English coach had not made any public comments about Mandanda’s future with the club, but Hennessey is now every game’s man between the sticks and with old faithful Speroni on the bench, the writing is on the wall for the expatriate.
Will Mandanda have a last chance to redeem himself? Premier League is very particular for foreign players and especially goalkeepers; lots of them came and left, even France’s World and European Champion Fabien Barthès had some bad moments with Manchester United.
Did Mandanda come to London believing/hoping to show his worth and take back his former France’s number one from Hugo Lloris? Tottenham’s captain, bosses the best Premier League defense and if the former Marseillais were in this state of mind, then something’s wrong with his agent!
It’s now more than four months since the new “Eagle’s” last time on the pitch; France will play v Spain and Luxembourg in March and one may wonder what will be Didier Deschamps‘ decision about the french international . Will he call him or chose somebody else ? At the eve of his 32nd(March 28th) anniversary, the player will have a big decision to make, a decision that will change at least the five next years of his career.
During the last League game of Crystal v Middlesbrough (1-0) the player was with his friend comedian and rapper Ben Bailey Smith who twitted:”the Myth, the Man, the Legend @SteveMandanda and he’s fit to play !”
Sam Allardyce have been very clear:” I’m the Manager, my tactics, my system, my expertise; the players must do as told and stay focused.”
Steve Mandanda has been clear too:” Everyone knows and understand my attachment to my former club, Olympique de Marseille ; I’ll be more than happy to return.” Is this the last throw, the last quote to finalize the player’s divorce, if not with the club, but at least with the “Eagles” faithful ?
Once upon a time, there was a guardian who left the sunny Mediterranean to be King and live in a Palace, made of Crystal; let’s hope for a happy-ending !