INTERVIEW | 22/02/2021"You come up against the best players in the Champions League and you get goosebumps just listening to the anthem", he said in an interview with UEFA's official media.
Mendy spoke to UEFA's official media as he reviewed Real Madrid's current situation and discussed their Champions League round of 16 opponents Atalanta: "We have to be careful. They're here for a reason. We know they play good football and score lots of goals. It'll be difficult and we're looking forward to a very good game. We'll have to be at our best to win".
What makes the Champions League special?
You play against the best teams from other leagues in the Champions League. Even before I played my first Champions League match, I'd heard the music, even if it's only on TV, and you get goosebumps. This competition is something else.
What is it like to have Zidane as a coach?
He's a legend and, to be honest, it's an honour to be coached by him. He gives off charisma when you stand in front of him. It's good having him and we've also spoken about the French national team. He's given me good advice and i'm happy to give everything in every game.
How was your move to Real Madrid?
I knew when I arrived at Real Madrid how it would be and knew that there'd be great players here. You're shy at first and then you start to get to know people and learn how the group works. I'm playing more now and I'm focussed on making the most of the games I'm given. That's what it's about. I wouldn't say I'm a regular starter in the first team. It's also crazy and a great achievement to go from almost quitting football to playing for Real Madrid.
You have a story behind you, as you went through difficult times in your youth...
It's a big story. It was difficult for me, but I came out of it well. I spent seven years at PSG, I started with the Under-11s and got injured before I joined the academy. I had arthritis in my hip and got an infection, so I had to have an operation and I was in hospital for a long time. I was in a cast for two or three months. The doctor came to see me when I had the operation and told me that football was over for me. He even spoke about an amputation. I was in a wheelchair for a long time, then on crutches and then I had to learn to walk again.
How were those times?
I had to be carried around, but I felt that I could walk again right away. I tried, got out of the chair and fell down straight away. I had no strength left in my legs because I hadn't walked and I hadn't moved my legs for a long time. I always thought that football wasn't over for me and I told everyone that I was coming back. Most people thought it was impossible, but I learned to walk again and I played with hip pain for about a year and a half. I was named the best full-back in the first year I played in Ligue 2. The same thing happened at Lyon. I was named the best left-back two years in a row. So to be honest, I've done well.
How did you feel when you made your debut for the national team?
I was happy. I wasn't scared to be there. I didn't move up from youth level, I went straight into the senior team. I was called up to replace an injured player. You could say I was shy at the start, but I settled into the team very quickly. Everyone talks to everyone and they welcomed me and the other new players with open arms. You learn a lot from training and playing with players like that and that makes you improve as a player.