It is a page in the history of OM which is about to be turned. A rich history of 613 chapters written in indelible ink (a record not about to be beaten), from 2007 to today, only interrupted by a one-year break at Crystal Palace (2016-17). A story that would have deserved another epilogue, on the scale of what Steve Mandanda brought to the club of which he will remain a monument. Only here it is, for a year and the will of the Olympian leaders to recruit another goalkeeper to establish competition for this very special position, Il Fenomeno lives in the shadow of the replacement. Pau Lopez took – almost – all the light, except when Jorge Sampaoli needed the 2018 world champion and his leadership at the end of last season. The hasty departure of the Argentinian technician and his replacement by Igor Tudor could have redistributed the cards; these recent events could have changed Mandanda’s mind and stifled his desires, which had been on display in private for some time. Since the recovery, he made no secret of his wish to go elsewhere, just to not relive an exercise that was so scanty in appearances (20, all competitions combined).
Problem, the successor of Sampaoli decided to remain faithful to the roadmap established in the summer of 2021 and recalled yesterday by Pablo Longoria: “Over the past few days, we’ve talked a lot with Steve about his position within the club, explained the Spanish president. We spoke clearly, we had sincere conversations about the model we want for goalkeepers. We want the same model as last season, with two good goalkeepers who are in competition.“Tudor confirmed this orally to Mandanda on Monday during a long exchange at the Robert Louis-Dreyfus center.
The World Cup in sight
Unthinkable for the player trained in Le Havre who wants to take advantage of being still in good shape to continue playing. Things then rushed. Nice quickly showed interest, but the changes within the Aiglons organization chart complicated this track. The way was then clear for Rennes, in search of an experienced goalkeeper to secure its defense. The final agreement was reached yesterday. OM, not wanting to put a spoke in the wheels of their emblematic goalkeeper, will release him from his contract.
Mandanda is flying today to Brittany where his ultimate challenge awaits him and a two-year contract, in all likelihood. At 37, he has not drawn a line under the France team. He still dreams of taking part in the blue adventure at the World Cup in Qatar, which would be his seventh final phase of a major tournament, and would allow him to release the disappointment of not having played (and won) the League of Nations last fall. The prospect of being number 3 behind Hugo Lloris and Mike Maignan would not displease him, especially since he could give the rest of the group the benefit of his immense international experience.
Another element came into his thinking. After the dizzying season punctuated in 2nd place, he feels that the news will prove to be more complicated, crossed by turmoil that he knows only too well and that he would not really want to relive. In Rennes, he will discover a more padded world.
Goodbye Steve. Perhaps soon…