Born in Kinshasa but brought to France at an early age, Steve Mandanda is a product of the youth academy of Le Havre, a club through whose ranks he worked his way to ultimately become the first-team goalkeeper at just 20. After playing 67 Ligue 2 matches between 2004 and 2007, he was loaned out to Marseille and found himself in the right place at the right time, taking over first-team duties when the club’s first-choice keeper, Cedric Carrasso, suffered a serious injury.
Three weeks later, in a UEFA Champions League tie in the imposing setting of Anfield, he played a decisive role in Marseille’s historic 1-0 victory. He has since been an ever-present at the Stade Velodrome, forcing Carrasso to first sit on the bench, and then eventually leave the club in search of first-team football.
“He gives the impression that he’s been playing in this position for 25 years,” said former Marseille coach Eric Gerets of Mandanda. The young custodian possesses excellent all-round handling skills, whether holding on to long-range shots or making superb reflex saves on his line. He is also more than capable of launching quick counter-attacks by throwing the ball or by kicking it from hand. Initially hesitant in coming out to deal with crosses, he has made considerable progress in this domain, now dominating the area with his powerful frame (1.85m; 82 kg).
Called up to represent France B in February 2008, he started a friendly match against DR Congo, whose line-up contained a familiar face in goal; Parfait Mandanda, his younger brother. On 27 May 2008, he was capped for the full international team for the first time in a match versus Ecuador, putting in a performance that convinced coach Raymond Domenech to include him in his UEFA EURO 2008 squad at the expense of Mickael Landreau. Thrust into the No1 slot after the European Championship, he gradually began to lose out to Hugo Lloris in the international reckoning due to some below-par outings with both club and country.
However, he can take some comfort from the fact that he put in a near-perfect display when called upon to replace Lloris following the Lyon keeper’s red card in Serbia during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.