Pep Guardiola says Benjamin Mendy is working “like an animal” to have a successful Manchester City career following an injury-blighted first two years at the club.
The left-back was signed for £52m in the summer of 2017, a then world record fee for a defender, but a series of knee and other problems have limited him to 17 Premier League appearances. The 25-year-old’s last game was on 17 April, when City lost their Champions League quarter-final to Spurs despite a 4-3 win on the night. While Mendy did not finish that match, he has stepped up his training and could return after the international break in October.
Guardiola believes the Frenchman can fulfil his potential at City. “If Benjamin is fit, he will have success,” the City manager said. “He has a special quality. The people from the Barcelona [clinic] are telling me that he is working [incredibly hard], like an animal and hopefully he can maintain that because it is not about one day or one week, it is about every day doing that. These kinds of traumatic injuries are a bit unlucky, one after another.
“I am happy [with him] but I don’t want to say too much. I am satisfied because it has been two weeks and his recovery after training has been good. He doesn’t feel any pain and that is good.”
City have claimed the Premier League title in the past two seasons with 100 and 98 points, respectively. Yet Guardiola is sure his team can improve this season, pointing to last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham at the Etihad in which City had 30 shots on goal, the visitors three.
“The way we played against Tottenham showed we can do better than last season,” he said. “Even Chelsea when we won 6-0 [last term] – the Tottenham game was better.
“When we arrived the first five times at goal [against Chelsea], we score four. The way we played, it was better [versus Spurs].”
Guardiola, whose team visit Bournemouth on Sunday, is aware that maintaining such levels of intensity is difficult given the fixture schedule. “It is impossible to sustain every three days, playing the way we played against Tottenham [which was derived] due to the emotion of it being the first game at home, them being the finalists of the Champions League, the emotion of the players: they were incredibly focused,” he said.
“The problem when you play every three days, you have to lift them and say: ‘Come on, let’s go, guys, it is another one and another one.’ But the level was so good. It was incredible, the way we play, so try to keep going and build up from here.”