The scene would not stain in a 3pm TV movie on M6. Nuno Mendes, then 11, was walking the streets of his Lisbon suburb on his way home from school when he realized he was being followed by an adult. He accelerates, takes detours to confuse the spy in vain, finally reaches the family home and locks himself in a double turn. The kid does not live under the bullets, but in a neighborhood warm enough to smell such shots. Without taking the time to put down his satchel, he rushes into the kitchen, grabs the first knife that comes to hand and waits.
As expected, there is a knock on the door. This time for sure, we are looking for trouble, but he opens anyway. In front of him, Akil Momade, a Sporting scout with whom he had already exchanged after having caught his eye under the colors of modest FC Despertar, but whom he did not immediately recognize. The adult draws his socio card to dispel the misunderstanding, the villain was in fact Josephine Guardian Angel.
History does not say if the young Portuguese international, now in his twenties or almost, showed the same instinct for survival when Paris Saint-Germain approached him in the money-time of the transfer window. Probably not. “He was already followed by a lot of people when Leonardo arrived”, confides Nuno Raposo, sportinguista surety for the sports daily. In Bola.
Pep Guardiola liked the profile of the player but Manchester City’s priority was on the attack, Ronald Koeman would have recruited him, but with what money? As for Manchester United, another Portuguese occupied his mind. It is therefore the sports director of PSG who intelligently went to win the buzzer: loan with option to buy if the trial period proves conclusive (around 40 million euros). Sarabia is doing the opposite to go scratch playing time with the champion of Portugal, Paris strengthens its left lane, the Leões are filling their chest, in short, everyone is happy. One question remains: is Nuno Mendes the left side he needed at PSG?
Fast and Furious
Without going into the cliché or redoing the full biography of the teenager, the international tuga has a profile that speaks to Paname: bottle-fed street football until he was nine, it only took him a year to break kidneys in the club before heading to Sporting, where he had a complicated start before the click, at 15-16 years old. The rest is quick: the kid is outclassed several times until joining the A team at the end of the 2019-20 season without a stake on which the coach, Ruben Amorim, saw fit to capitalize by launching young people trained in club, including Nuno.
“He’s a boy who always knew how to seize opportunities,” said Luis Dias, 23, polishing rough diamonds in the country’s most prolific training center, “a Academia” as it is called. Rather practical when you go from an intermediate club, certainly national champion, to a contender for the Champions League. Especially since, given the physical condition of Juan Bernat and the unpredictability of Layvin Kurzawa, something tells us that Mauricio Pochettino will not hang around too long before launching it.
“He is shy off the field but inside he likes to put on a show and does not let himself be impressed, adds Dias, with the sometimes exaggerated enthusiasm of the trainer. He’s not afraid of one-on-one. Better, he’ll look for it. This is how we recognize a crack. “
The former coach of Mendes in the under 23 years of the green and white, Leonel Pontes, adds the measure to the observation. “It will not be an easy adaptation, because there is the language barrier and he will play with world-class players like Messi, Neymar and Mbappé. But he’s a good guy. I know he’s going to work hard and hang on. If Paris shows patience with him… ”
– Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) September 9, 2021
To integrate, Nuno Mendes will always be able to count on his elder Danilo Pereira, clearly the kind to take the young people under his wing according to Pontes, who had made him his captain for this reason when the two men collaborated in the Maritimo. The Portuguese tandem was also clearly visible to the naked eye during the newcomer’s first training session on Thursday.
Excellent in 3-5-2, perfectible in a four-way defense
At first glance, the hardest thing for Nuno Mendes seems to find a place in the area of the pitch where he expresses himself best, namely the last third of the left lane, where there can sometimes be traffic jams. Leonel Pontes:
“It depends on who is in front of him. If it’s Neymar, who tends to get on his right foot, it will be fine, he will have the hallway for him. If it’s Mbappé, it will be more shared. Another point, will the more axial presence of Lionel Messi not tighten the opposing defenses a little more and give Nuno Mendes more freedom? It’s a possibility. “
In this ideal scenario, his qualities of dribbling and center (“tense and back, never bell”, specifies Pontes) could be put to good use. “He will try a lot to take the lane and look for areas where actions are finalized,” explains Luis Dias. He was trained as a winger and was later converted to side, which is why he is very comfortable in 3-5-2, as we saw under Ruben Amorim. “
In a four-man defense, and his recent appearances for the Selecção have proven it again, there is still a bit of work to be done. (Rare) inattentive alignment errors and a tendency to throw himself one-on-one against a defensive player sometimes put him in awkward situations, even though the speed tool allows him to easily catch up. “It will be necessary to allow it to be wrong,” concludes Pontes, citing one of the great precepts of sportinguista training. And to think that, if the PSG does not perform this year, that will not be the fault of Nuno ”. A priori, we will look for the culprits a little higher up in the field.