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Wednesday, 27 July 2011 15:11

Pedro Mendes: Career profile of one of football’s rare gentlemen

Vitoria Guimaraes midfielder to begin new chapter in career

Pedro MendesTomorrow will mark the return to Vitoria Guimaraes of a player whose career has gone full circle. Joshua Perry looks back at the last decade in the footballing life of an understated hero of the Portuguese game, Pedro Mendes.
In an age where players quake in their boots every time they hear a newspaper running a ‘Top footballer caught being up to no good’ story, Pedro Miguel da Silva Mendes is a timely reminder of why maybe football isn’t so bad after all. In a sport that is full to the brim with uninspiring and downright poor role models, the long-haired midfielder from Portugal puts each and every one of them to shame.
Mendes who has enjoyed spells playing for the likes of FC Porto, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Rangers and Sporting has signed a deal that will bring a poetic end to his illustrious football career. On Friday, 15 July 2011 he was paraded at the Dom Afonso Henriques Stadium in front of thousands of adoring fans. After an eight-year absence, Mendes returned home to boyhood club, Vitoria Guimaraes. More of that later.
After breaking through the youth ranks as a teenager, he went onto make eighty appearances for Vitoria in the space of four seasons, until he caught the eye of a certain Jose Mourinho at Porto.  This was a move he simply couldn’t turn down, even though every single man and woman in Guimaraes adored him.

Champions League glory

His attitude, skill, reliability and consistency were the reasons earmarked by Mourinho for bringing Mendes to the Estadio do Dragao. He was joining a team that had just lifted the UEFA Cup, beating Celtic in a thrilling final. Under the guide ship of one of the world’s brightest young managers, the 5ft 8in star could never have expected just how good the 2003-2004 season would become.
May 26, 2004. FC Porto were crowned champions of Europe after thrashing AS Monaco in Gelsenkirchen. Mendes played the whole match, signing off a fantastic campaign that also saw Porto retain the domestic league title. Not bad for a kid from Guimaraes.
The summer that followed saw a mass exodus of playing and coaching staff at the club. Jose Mourinho departed for Chelsea taking defenders Paulo Ferriera and Ricardo Carvalho with him. Meanwhile, star man Deco was sold to Barcelona for €15m plus Ricardo Quaresma. Mendes was next to join the core of players leaving the Estadio do Dragao, signing for Tottenham Hotspur in a deal worth €3m. For a player that had just starred in a Champions League winning team, it was certainly considered a bargain at the time.
His career at White Hart Lane started in steady fashion, putting in solid performances and quickly striking up a colossal partnership in the centre of midfield alongside Michael Carrick. However, his time in a Spurs shirt will mostly be remembered for one thing – the goal that never was. On 4 January 2005, Manchester United and Tottenham were deadlocked at 0-0 in front of a packed Old Trafford crowd. On the stroke of full time, Mendes struck an audacious attempt from the halfway line catching Roy Carroll off guard, resulting in the Northern Irish goalkeeper to fumble the ball three yards over the line. Despite everyone in the ground seeing the ball clearly go in, the referee and linesman failed to give the goal. Spurs fans still talk about the incident to this day.

Watch Mendes’ goal that never was:

That episode would sum up Mendes’ luck in North London as in his second season he was reduced to a bit part role and was told he could leave in January.

Mendes triggers Portsmouth revival

His next footballing chapter took him to England’s South Coast where he joined Portsmouth. He was part of a deal that saw Pompey pay £7.5m for three Spurs players, the other two being Sean Davis and Noe Pamarot. Portsmouth were rock bottom of the Premier League and survival looked highly unlikely. However, Mendes was playing first team football again and with each game not only he, but the whole team started showing signs of improvement.
Then, like at Spurs, his whole time at the club came down to one moment. With Pompey staring down the barrel of a disappointing 1-1 draw with Manchester City in a game they simply had to win, Mendes smashed home a 35-yard volley in the 94th minute to give Portsmouth all the hope and belief they needed to beat the drop. That goal will forever be written in Portsmouth folklore. Sam Matterface who works at TalkSport recently said it was his ‘favourite Premier League moment ever’. It also galvanised a Great Escape in which Portsmouth went on an incredible run securing their Premier League status for another year.
The next campaign would start in horrific fashion for Mendes though, as in only the second game of the season, Mendes was brutally elbowed by Ben Thatcher resulting in the midfielder having a seizure on the pitch and requiring oxygen. After the incident, Mendes expressed that it had shocked him so much that he had even considered quitting the sport. Luckily for him though, he stuck to his guns and would eventually reap the rewards. Portsmouth went onto win the 2008 FA Cup Final, beating Cardiff City at Wembley. Mendes started the game and admirably donned a Vitoria Guimaraes scarf whilst celebrating the cup triumph.

Scotland success

However it would be his last competitive game for the club before signing for Rangers for £3m. Mendes quickly became a revelation in Scotland, securing the SPL Player of the Month award for August, whilst going onto score a 40-yard screamer in his first ever Old Firm match. Rangers went onto win the title that year with the midfielder putting in a string of man of the match performances. Unfortunately he missed the 2009 Scottish Cup Final due to injury.
On 30 January 2010, Mendes would be on the move again. This time moving back to Portugal in a £1m transfer to Sporting.  18 months and 18 appearances later, Mendes was released for the first time in his career, allowing him the opportunity to return ‘home’ to Guimaraes.
After signing his two-year deal with the club, Mendes stated, “I always said I intended to finish my career at Vitoria Guimaraes.“At this point in my career nothing is more enticing than playing for Vitoria. It had to be now, or it would have been too late. It was at Vitoria that I wanted to end my career and I’m going to play to the very limit of my abilities. For now I want to enjoy this moment, which is my return to my true home.”
You ask each and every manager, player and supporter of the clubs that Mendes has represented and they will tell you the same thing. He is a model professional and the nicest guy you could ever meet. If only there were more Pedro’s for the youngsters to look up to.
(Our thanks to guest writer, Joshua Perry, who happily is a Portsmouth and Vitoria Guimaraes fan!) 

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Comments (5)
5 Monday, 28 November 2011 09:44
pedro as a Pompey fan I would like to thank you for making my dreams come true. Without your contribution and goals we would never have stayed up and in 2008 season been in the Premier league and in a postion to win the FA Cup and play in the Europa league. 5 Trips to Wembley and a trip to Portugal and Germany. Spookily enough the Portugal Europa league game wa against Guimaraes. A fabulous time and one to remember always. Thanks Pedro - with all good wishes from all Pompey fans
4 Tuesday, 30 August 2011 18:37
Im a hearts fan, id like to hear your opinion of Paulo Sergio.
Great Piece
3 Thursday, 28 July 2011 13:40
Thank you for a great article on a great player.
Sometimes we forget about other great footballers that are playing abroad. You don't have to be the best in the world, in order to be significant and the one thing Mendes was, is significant.

I wish him luck at Guimaraes. I hope that he's able to elevate the Galacticos do Minho..
great way to finish a career
2 Thursday, 28 July 2011 07:53
That truly is a great story. I love reading about where famous footballers came from and how their careers have progressed. He had some really great moments in his career: champion of Portugal, Scotland and Europe, and an English FA cup title, etc... really nice accomplishments along the way.

Still, there is something about a player who remembers his roots and comes back to his hometown to play again that is really special. It will truly endear him to the fans forever.

I hope he finishes well and lifts Guimaraes to some important victories, if not titles, in his last meaningful days as a footballer.
1 Thursday, 28 July 2011 01:25
absolutely amazing article. Obrigado Pedro por tudo!!!

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