(Ben W) #1

MOST WANTED Under the radar


(Lille, Fra & Bra)
A late developer at the age of 27, the
defensive midfielder is something of a
contradiction; a player often undervalued
by Ligue 1 reporters, yet immensely
popular with European club scouts.
He came within a whisker of joining
Paris Saint-Germain in the last transfer
window, while Chelsea are just one of
several Premier League clubs to take
note, along with teams in Germany,
Portugal and Italy.
When seeking to explain Lille’s
emergence this term as PSG’s closest
challengers, most pundits concentrate
on the northern club’s array of attacking
talent, such as Nicolas Pepe, Rafael
Leao and Jonathan Bamba. But equally
important is the contribution of Mendes,
an impressive amalgam of tactical
intelligence, ball-winning grit, easy
technique and pin-point distribution.
Shame that his sterling efforts often
seem to go unnoticed in the media.
The guardian of Lille’s collective
balance, he is always on hand for a

timely tackle or interception, is an expert
in plugging the gaps left by others and
very clever in his passing. Positioned
deep and able to survey the whole pitch,
he is quite the master at linking the play
and setting the tempo.
Now in his second season with Lille


  • who he joined for €9million from Sao
    Paulo in 2017 – he will not break the
    bank either, with his current employers
    thought to want a relatively affordable
    €25-30m for him. Despite a recent
    recapitalisation programme, LOSC still
    have debts of around €100m and
    chairman Gerard Lopez has made it clear


that he intends to erase the deficit with
player sales.
A member of the Sao Paulo side that
reached Libertadores semi-finals in 2016,
Mendes found life tough in France at first.
The coach who championed his arrival,
Marcelo Bielsa, lasted only a few months
and for a considerable period the new

midfielder found himself on a positional
merry-go-round, used by incoming boss
Christophe Galtier in many different roles,
including left wing, right wing and as a
number 10 before the switch last summer
to a deep-lying controlling role.
“It took me some time to work out
where he would be the most effective,”

(Club Brugge,
Blg & Bra)
The Belgian side
are set to make
a very nice profit
on a 22-year-old
Brazilian centre-
forward who was
recruited from
Slovakia’s Trencin
for €1m in 2016
and is currently
being tracked by a
number of clubs in
England, Italy and
Spain.

(Rangers, Sco & Col)
The striker has
made a dramatic
impact in Scotland
since a 2017 move
from Finland and
his fiery nature


  • he has been
    shown five red
    cards so far this
    season – does
    not seem to have
    put off suitors
    such as Borussia
    Dortmund and
    Leicester City.


WESLEY ALFREDO MORELOS


THIAGO MENDES


“He’s a personality and
someone with whom
I can exchange ideas.
He really thinks about
the game”
Lille coach Christophe Galtier