It is not a regular occurrence to see a past member of the famed Atletico Madrid academy gritting it out in the rigours of England’s fourth tier. In fact, it had never been seen prior to the enrapturing emergence of Carlos Mendes Gomes, who beholds a stimulating story like no other. And Mendes Gomes, who is now playing a pivotal role in Morecambe’s shock promotion charge, regularly featured for Los Colchoneros’ B team alongside the likes of Koke and twin brothers Theo and Lucas Hernandez. So, the alluring question beckons. How did Mendes Gomes go from the Spanish Capital to the miniscule seaside town of Morecambe?
Well-accustomed to travelling from a young age, Mendes Gomes was initially born in the football-rich province of Dakar, situated on the west coast of Senegal. Early on, Mendes Gomes and his family relocated to Lanzarote and from there, his talents would soon attract interest.
To start with, Getafe came calling and the globetrotting youngster spent a year with the Madrid-based outfit before moving to their cross-city counterparts Atletico Madrid. It seems his arrival came at the perfect time. That very same season, Diego Simeone’s side would go onto win their first league title in 18 years as well as reaching the Champions League Final, eventually falling to defeat against local rivals Real Madrid.
Undoubtedly, experiences and environments of this kind can prove to have a lasting impression and for the Senegalese forward, it was no different. Mendes Gomes told Sky Sports:
“It was an amazing feeling (being a part of the club). When we were going to games and watching the first team, I’d think that one day I want to have this feeling and I want to be a part of it. At the beginning we would take pictures with the first-team players but after that it becomes normal, taking advice and learning from them”
Evidently, such perspectives constructed an invaluable learning curve for the youngster and that serves as little surprise given the wealth of talent within the club at the time. Amongst those powerful influences were the likes of Diego Costa, David Villa, Thibaut Cortouis, Filipe Luis and former captain Diego Godin to name a few. However, Mendes Gomes would soon be clocking up the air miles again. After plying his trade at various youth levels for the Spanish giants, Mendes Gomes’ father decided to move the family over to England due to the prospect of a higher quality education.
In stark contrast to his seamless transitioning during his time in the Spanish Capital, the Morecambe flyer struggled to find his feet in England to begin with. And in his opening year on English soil, Mendes Gomes failed to find a team and did not even speak a word of English. Though as a telling testament of his perseverance, drive and determination, his next footballing destination came in the form of 10th-tier side West Didsbury & Chorlton, poles apart from the wisdomic feedback given by the Atletico senior team.
Eventually, Mendes Gomes was scouted by League Two Morecambe whilst playing for his college, and following a successful trial period, the winger agreed permanent terms with the Shrimps. Having said that, his introduction to professional football was anything but a breeze.
In his debút season at the Globe Arena, Mendes Gomes racked up fifteen appearances but the following campaign was far less gratifying. Last term, the 22-year old only made the squad for two of their opening 20 fixtures and consequently, doubts arose whether he would truly be licensed with the opportunity to prove his worth in English football. This prolonged exclusion even led to a brief trial period at Barnsley with Mendes Gomes making a solitary feature for the Tyke’s U23 side away to Watford.
Mendes Gomes’ Change of Fortunes
Against all odds, the young dynamo’s future soon proved to be in Lancashire and the arrival of new manager Derek Adams turned out to be his awakening.
“The first season I was playing lots and lots and then I wasn’t even on the bench. I believed I deserved to play more because of the way I was performing in training and the team wasn’t really doing that well at the time. I thought I should’ve at least got a chance, but it didn’t happen unfortunately. Then, when Derek Adams took over, he gave me that opportunity and I made sure I took it”
This campaign, Mendes Gomes has emerged as Morecambe’s most crucial component at the heart of a surprising promotion push, currently sitting on eleven goals in 31 outings. So, to say he took that chance is a thoroughly justified sentiment.
“(Adams) has taken my game to the next level- mentality wise and also my technical ability. He’s given me the confidence to go onto the pitch, express myself and just be me, He’s added more directness to my game. My relationship with him is great, when the manager speaks highly in interviews and one-to-one, it’s really pleasing to hear.”
Not one to be complacent, Mendes Gomes insists that a plentitude of improvement still looms on the horizon.
“Personally, it’s been alright,” said the humble Mendes Gomes on his breakout season. “There’s always room for improvement and I believe that I can actually up it and do better for the team, scoring and assisting more goals.”
Still aged twenty-two, he is not wrong. There is plenty of time for improvement and that is a signal of simply how promising Mendes Gomes’ future is appearing to be. Marrying his bountiful bags of quality with a resilient, assiduous core, the rocket-heeled wide man can really go far in the game.
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