Mendy: I made Pep promise me City would be in Champions League semis when I return
In the first instalment of his exclusive On The Mend column, the Manchester City defender gives The Times behind-the-scenes access during his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury
It’s Benjamin Mendy here writing to you from Dr Cugat’s clinic at the Quirónsalud hospital in Barcelona, where I’m doing the first stage of my recovery from my knee injury.
It’s one month to the day since I had the operation to fix the anterior cruciate ligament I tore against Crystal Palace. I’ve decided to do a monthly column in The Times so I can share my journey back with you.
I’ve been working very hard and everything is going well so far. I decided to play a prank on Ilkay Gündogan, who has had an operation here, when I arrived. I rang him up pretending to be scared and asked him “how big is that needle bro?!”
The injury happened almost five weeks ago, but I only saw it back for the first time this week. I was in the hospital when a guy saw me and said, “You’re Benjamin Mendy aren’t you?” We got talking and ended up watching the footage back. As I sat there watching it with him, I thought: “I could have avoided making that tackle.” I should have challenged Andros Townsend from another angle. But they treat me fantastically well here and I know there is worth in life. It’s all about perspective. I have a laugh and a joke with the staff — one of them looks like Jesé from Stoke City! — and I like to talk to all the patients. I’m almost fluent now!
I got back to the changing room after the Palace match and said to Pep Guardiola: “Relax! Don’t worry, I’ll miss the Champions League game against Shakhtar on Tuesday but I’ll be back for Chelsea next weekend”. The men in purple, the City doctors in their tracksuits, weren’t convinced though and neither was Pep, so I flew to Barcelona for a second opinion.
I was relaxed when I came here, but when they tested my knees, the news wasn’t what I expected. To see if you have torn your ACL, they put a pump over both knees to put pressure on them. If there’s a 3mm difference between the two, one of your ACLs has gone. Dr Cugat sat me down and told me my reading was 3.2mm. I was only 0.2mm over. 0.2 millimetres! I couldn’t believe it. But I wanted to start planning my recovery straight away. The first thing I said to Dr Cugat was: “How long will I be out for? How long will I be out for? How long will I be out for?!”
He told me: “Six months. Maybe more, maybe less.” I want to get back fit as soon as possible. I want to play in the Premier League, the Carabao Cup, the Champions League, the FA Cup, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will play in the World Cup. And you know what I’m like when I play with City, my Shark Team, I always have a smile on my face and it’s the same with my rehab.
I told Pep after I got my results I would only have surgery if he promised me City would be in the Champions League semi-finals when I come back. That is our checkpoint. That is where we will meet again.
I’ve been training seven days a week as I want to get back as soon as possible. I’ve brought my chef Simone Bertaggia with me. He stops around the corner from the flat I’m staying in in the city centre. I built up a good relationship with him when he was head chef at Monaco last season. When I left Monaco, I said to him “you’re coming with me” and he did. He’s the best cook in the world.
You think Monaco won the league last year just because we had good players and Leonardo Jardim? No! Simone was important too. Broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot . . . yuck . . . I never used to eat any of them, but I do now. I don’t know how he does it, but he makes them taste good!
I promise you I will eat anything if he says it’s good for me.
He makes me toast and mango jam for breakfast. He also prepares some mixed nuts for me. I have vegetables and chicken or octopus — something I never used to like — for lunch and I usually have some salmon for dinner.
After breakfast, I usually play Fifa or talk to my friends and family while I have a Game Ready knee wrap around my leg. It puts pressure on my knee while cooling it at the same time. I look like I’ve got a bionic leg! While my knee is chilling I have some banter with my old Monaco team-mates on WhatsApp. We have a group called “Monaco, champions”. I’m now in a group called “Man City” too, hopefully that will be called “Man City, champions” next summer. I sit there laughing for ages when I look at the messages in a morning. They’re so funny. Everyone is going back and forth at each other. Nobody is safe! It’s non-stop! Kyle Walker, me, Bernardo Silva, everyone is gunning for each other. I trained Bernardo to be relaxed and funny. He used to be such a shy person! The other day he put Walker’s face over a Walkers crisp packet!
After I’ve finished, I exercise for half an hour, sometimes on the terrace as the weather is much better here than in Manchester and then I have three hours at the hospital testing my knee with the physio I’ve been assigned, whose name is Miky, which is funny because he looks exactly like Henrikh Mkhitaryan! He’s a top guy. He’s such a good motivator. He’s always pushing me, challenging me. He tells me if I’m not doing something right. He tells me if I feel pain it is because my muscle has been sleeping. He’s a clever guy and I respect him. He’s become a good friend and he does with his hands what Messi does with his feet. He’s a magnificent person. I used to hate massages a long time ago when I was a kid. I wouldn’t let any of the masseurs touch me, but as I’ve got more experience I’ve learnt it helps your body recover. My knee feels strong. I have been doing leg curls in the gym to put weight on my knee. Next week hopefully I’ll go on the bike for the first time. We’re taking it step by step.
I’ve made sure I’ve watched every City match while I’ve been in Barcelona. I can’t keep my eyes off the TV when we play. I’m always shouting and chanting at the screen. We’re playing so good at the moment! Keep it up guys! I’m not surprised at how well we’re playing because I saw this kind of football every day in training. It’s perfect football. I don’t know how anybody could dislike the football we are playing. The passing, the movement, the goals, the defending, the goalkeeping, everything is perfect.
During the match against Stoke City, I kept thinking Kevin De Bruyne is just a beautiful player. He’s our pianist. The vision, the intelligence, the passing. He has it all. He’s one of the best midfielders in the world.
I want to say thank you to all the City fans who have started turning up in those crazy shark outfits. I want to see this Shark Team grow and grow and grow! I came up with the Shark Team idea in Los Angeles after we beat Real Madrid in preseason. I was scrolling through my emojis and I saw the shark. I thought: “That’s perfect. We are a team that is sniffing out trophies like sharks sense blood and we are gobbling up our rivals.”
I speak to Pep often. He messaged me before Marseilles’ game against PSG because he knew I’d be watching. He knows I love Marseilles. He’s a great coach and he keeps in touch to see how I’m doing, to see if there’s anything he can do to help. I knew from the first moment I spoke with him that I wanted to play for him. We talked about everything to do with football. He loves the game, just like Marcelo Bielsa did, my old coach at Marseilles. He cares for his players. He let me send in a video to show the boys before the Chelsea game. I told them: “Good luck. Today is important if we want to win the league.” After the game Pep dedicated the win to me and Sergio Agüero after his car crash. It was a top feeling for me.
I’ll go back to Manchester a week today to continue my recovery. I want to sit in the crowd with the fans when the matches come round, maybe with a loud hailer to chant “Come on City”. I’d like that.https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/benj ... -hz8lpnlm3