John Mensah is a Ghanaian footballer who currently plays for Sunderland as a defender, on loan from Lyon for the 200910 season.
Born in Obuasi, Ghana, Mensah is a product of the scouting system in Ghana that identifies talented youngsters long before they enter any formal structures and exports them to potential fame and fortune in Europe.
A centre-half by choice, Mensah is also adept at right-back and has played in both positions for his national side, also captaining the team on occasions. His physique has earned him the moniker the Rock of Gibraltar, and Mensah was considered a certainty to be named in the Black Stars squad for the 2006 World Cup.
The defenders first foreign adventure was as a teenager, when he moved to Italy to join Bologna. The Serie A outfit recognised his talent, but also saw that his was potential in its rawest form and, as such, loaned him to Swiss side AC Bellinzona, where it was hoped that he would hone his talents. Mensah's lack of speed was the reason many scouts overlooking his talent but he has shown great positioning and awareness.
The arrangement proved beneficial to both clubs and also to the player himself, and it was during his time in Switzerland that Mensah was called up for the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina, where Ghana finished as runners-up to the host nation in the tournament.
The following season, he returned to Serie B on loan with Genoa before being purchased on a permanent basis by Chievo Verona in the summer of 2002.
A brief spell with Modena punctuated a moderately successful three-year stint in Verona, but, following another uneventful move to Cremonese in the Italian Serie B, Mensah came to the conclusion that a new stable environment was what was required to kick-start his somehow journey-man career.
On 31 January 2006 during the winter transfer window, he moved to Rennes on loan after having played in Italy for most of his career, for clubs including Genoa, Modena, Bologna and Cremonese, at the behest of their former player Philippe Redon, who brought him to fill the gap in defence caused by an injury to another African, the Moroccan Abdeslam Ouaddou. High level performances in the French League convinced Rennes to make the loan deal permanent. In April 2006 he signed a three year contract with Rennes.
The move to Rennes breathed new life into the Ghanaians play earning him a reputation in France as one of Ligue 1s best defenders.
On 28 September 2006, Stade Rennais website wrote an article about John Mensah impact on his new team since his acquisition. It said - The summary from 11 February 2006 to 28 September 2006: 18 games: 12 wins, 5 draws, 1 defeat. 12 conceded goals, 4 of them when Mensah was not on the field. Rennes conceded 0.66 goals per game with Mensah. Without Mensah Rennes had 6 games, 0 wins, 1 draw and five losses. 13 goals were conceded, making 2.66 per game.
On 17 May 2007, Mensah signed a new contract extension with Stade Rennais until 2010. "I am very lucky to be able to stay one year more with such an ambitious club, especially since a lot of clubs wanted me," Mensah told L'Equipe. Delighted Rennes coach Pierre Dréossi said: "Those who wanted to see him at another club can now forget my telephone number."
He was linked with Portsmouth, which also looked likely to be his future destination due to strong presence of African players along with his international team mate Sulley Muntari at the club.
He was also linked with a possible move to Wigan Athletic. An enquiry from Wigan Athletic about a possible transfer for the Ghanaian was welcomed by Stade Rennais with club assistant coach Philippe Redon commenting that it would take at least £7,000,000 to prize Rock of Gibraltar away from the club.
He played 58 Ligue 1 matches for Rennes and registered 2 goals against Troyes AC in 2005/06 and Toulouse FC into 2007/08. He also played 3 matches in Coupe de France, 2 in the French League Cup and 2 in the UEFA Cup. He was made the Rennes Team captain in January 2008 until his exit in that Summer. Following his depature, Guy Lacombe the Rennes Coach, lamented that he had hoped to keep his captain because his exit will mean a re-examination of their playing system and that he will not go to an average club. If John leaves, he will do it only for something that one cannot propose to him here, Lacombe said. What Rennes could not give him was the chance to play in the UEFA Champions League.
On 26 April 2007, it was reported in the French Media that he was being seriously scouted by Lyon, with a view to making a move for him in that Summer transfer window.
As of November 2006, Mensah was rated the number 1 Player in France by France Football, tied with Juninho Pernambucano, in the 2006/07 season's Top 100 French League Players, but injuries ruined his season and his stats was taken off this page later on.
On 18 June 2008 new Olympique Lyonnais Coach Claude Puel made it his priority to sign Mensah to replace centre back Sébastien Squillaci who departed to Sevilla FC in the Spanish La Liga. Negotiations continued for the following four weeks and on 15 July 2008, Lyon 'Special adviser' Bernard Lacombe contacted Mensah and agreed a 5-year contract with him but Rennes dismissed Lyons initial interest. Jean-Michel Aulas offered the Breton club only 6 million, a figure that did not appease Rennes general manager Pierre Dréossi. But the French media said Mensah will sign for Lyon in an 8 million transfer
On 21 July 2008 Mensah finally signed a 5-year contract with Lyon in an 8.4 million transfer. He was presented to the media at 20:00 that day. During the press conference, Jean Michel Aulas stated that, John Mensah was recommended to them by ex-Lyon superstar midfielder Michael Essien. Mensah wore the Number 15 Shirt. He is the third Ghanaian Player to ever play for Lyon after Abedi Pele and Essien.
On 15 August 2009, various sources in France reported that Mensah would be joining English club Sunderland on loan for the season with the club also having the option to purchase the player for a fee of 7 million following the season. On 21 August, Mensah successfully passed his medical and, a week later, was awarded his work permit by the Court of Arbitration for Sport officially completing the move.
Mensah made his debut for Sunderland on 12 September, coming on as a substitute against Hull City in a 4-1 win. He then made his full debut in the 2-0 Carling Cup win over Birmingham City on 22 September and even managed to put the ball in the net, but it was disallowed for a foul on Blues keeper Maik Taylor. Mensah scored his first Sunderland goal against Manchester City on 19 December. So far Mensah's season with Sunderland has been hampered with the constant reoccurance of a calf injury, despite this however team mate Michael Turner has described him as the best defender he has ever played with.
Mensah played on Ghana's superb Under-20 National Team that went to the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship Final versus host nation Argentina in the Summer of that year. Starting every match at Center Back, the youngster crossed paths with and eliminated future stars of the calibre of Adriano, Kaká, Julio Baptista on 1 July 2001, when Ghana knocked out Brazil on a Mensah golden goal in the 4th minute of Extra Time in the Quarter Finals of that Tournament. and Djibril Cisse. (Tied after 90 minutes, the Ghana - Brazil game entered extra time with an excited crowd knowing that the next goal would decide the match. Throwing caution to the wind, Ghana went forward and forced a corner in the fourth minute. In came the cross and John Mensah got in front of his marker to send a firm header over the line, ousting Brazil.)
Mensahs senior debut for the Black Stars came against Algeria on 5 December 2001 just after his 19th birthday, on the eve of the 2002 African Cup of Nations finals in Mali, a tournament at which his aerial ability was a prominent feature of Ghanas play.
Since then, he has been a regular for the national team, playing almost every single game since then, rising in the rank of importance to become the assistant-captain of the National Team and now has 42 caps as of 27 March 2007. Mensah played for the Ghana Olympic Team known as the Black Meteors in the 2004 Summer Olympics. In 2006, he participated in his second African Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt, and was solidity personified during Ghanas successful qualifying campaign for 2006 FIFA World Cup.
He was involved in the 2006 FIFA World Cup with his national side. Ghana qualified for a final 16 tie against defending champions Brazil with a 2-1 victory over the USA in their final group stage match. After the final whistle, Mensah lifted his team jersey to reveal a T-shirt displaying "John Mensah - Rock of Gibraltar", his nickname in Ghana.
The coach of Ghana during 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ratomir Dujkovic cited Mensah for high commendations after the tournament.
Mensah was selected in the 2006 African Nations Cup All-Star Team of the Tournament by the Confederation of African Football in February 2006. On 3 February 2008, Mensah was sent off in a Cup of Nations quarter final game against Nigeria for a professional foul against Odemwinge. Ghana went on to win the match 2-1 with goals from Michael Essien and a later winner scored by Junior Agogo.
Style of play
He is regarded as one of the best African defenders in football and is known for his intelligence on the pitch.
John is the half brother of Ghana national team player Ekow Benson.