John Mensah

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John Mensah
John Mensah.jpg
John Mensah with Ghana
Personal information
Full name John Mensah[1]
Date of birth (1982-11-29) 29 November 1982 (age 34)
Place of birth Obuasi, Ashanti, Ghana
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Centre back
Youth career
1999–2000 MBC Accra
2000 Bologna
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2000–2002 Bellinzona 34 (1)
2001–2002 Genoa (loan) 24 (3)
2002–2006 Chievo 22 (0)
2004 Modena (loan) 6 (0)
2005–2006 Cremonese (loan) 14 (0)
2006–2008 Rennes 60 (2)
2008–2012 Lyon 13 (0)
2009–2011 Sunderland (loan) 34 (1)
2012–2013 Rennes 4 (0)
2013 Asante Kotoko 0 (0)
2014 FC Nitra 5 (0)
2016– AFC United 0 (0)
National team
2001–2012 Ghana 86 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 5 March 2016.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 15 November 2012

John Mensah (born 29 November 1982) is a Ghanaian professional footballer who plays as a defender for AFC United in the Swedish second-tier league. Mensah spent the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons on loan at English club Sunderland in the Premier League.

Club career[edit]

Born in Obuasi, Ashanti, 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 defender’s 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.[citation needed]

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.[2]

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.[3]


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, 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 Ghanaian’s play earning him a reputation in France as one of Ligue 1’s best defenders.[2].

John Mensah captaining and playing for Stade Rennais.

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.[4]

On 17 May 2007, Mensah signed a new contract extension with Stade Rennais until 2010.[5] "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.".[6]

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 teammate Sulley Muntari at the club.[7]

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.[8]

He played 58 Ligue 1 matches for Rennes and registered two goals against Troyes in 2005/06 and Toulouse into 2007/08. He also played three matches in the French Cup, two in the French League Cup and 2 in the UEFA Cup.[9] He was made the Rennes Team captain in January 2008 until his exit that summer. Following his departure, 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.[10] 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 [11] that he was being seriously scouted by Lyon,[12] with a view to making a move for him in that summer's 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 were taken off this page later on.

On 18 June 2008, new Lyon Coach Claude Puel made it his priority to sign Mensah to replace centre back Sébastien Squillaci, who departed to Sevilla in the Spanish La Liga.[13] Negotiations continued for the following four weeks and on 15 July 2008, Lyon 'special adviser' Bernard Lacombe contacted Mensah and agreed a five-year contract with him[14] but Rennes dismissed Lyon’s initial interest. Jean-Michel Aulas offered the Breton club only €6 million, a figure that did not appease Rennes general manager Pierre Dréossi.[15] But the French media said Mensah will sign for Lyon in an €8 million transfer.[16]

On 21 July 2008, Mensah finally signed a five-year contract with Lyon in an €8.4 million transfer.[17][18][19][20] 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 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.

Mensah made his debut on 13 September 2008 in a 3–2 win over Nice. However, his time at Lyon was difficult over being rarely used, having suffered tearing his groin muscle[21] and never played in his truly position; instead he played in left (with the absence of Fabio Grosso) or right back (with the absence of Anthony Réveillère and François Clerc.) Mensah spent the second half of the season on the bench or being injured. In a 3–1 win over Le Havre on 15 February 2009, Mensah was racially abused by Le Havre fans when he was targeted during the pre-match warm-up and throughout the first half. Manager Claude Puel insisted he should stay on the field throughout the match, only to receive a red card after a second bookable offence. After the match, the club expressed outraged over racial abuse on Mensah.[22] Mensah spoke out about racism and told L'Equipe that it not only left him homesick, but also affected his career.[23][24] A Le Havre fan, who racially abused Mensah, was charged for making racist insults after being arrested by the police and was released on bail. If convicted, he risks up to six months in prison and a fine. The fan, aged 21, admitted his actions[25] and eventually, the fan was presumed innocent pending further investigation[citation needed]. His sending-off was upheld and miss one match ban by LFP’s (Ligue de Football Professsionel) Disciplinary Committee. Their action received criticism from critics, that the referee Alain Hamer was treating Mensah harshly.[26] In the last game of the season, Mensah once again received a red card after a second bookable offence when he made a dangerous tackle on André-Pierre Gignac in 0–0 draw against Toulouse on a final game of the season. In that season, the club ended a seven-year streak of winning the league title. After one season, Mensah announced his intention to leave the club.[27]


On 15 August 2009, various sources in France[28][29] 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.[30]

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 League 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.[31] So far Mensah's season with Sunderland has been hampered with the constant reoccurrence of a calf injury, despite this however teammate Michael Turner has described him as the best defender he has ever played with. Mensah became a favourite amongst the Sunderland faithful, but his injury problems meant he would struggle to play much in the upcoming season.

Mensah rejoined Sunderland on loan for the 2010–11 season on 11 August.[32] Upon rejoining Sunderland, Mensah was handed the number 5 shirt on the eve of the new season, the same number he wears for Ghana.

Mensah started Sunderland's first match of the season, a 2–2 draw against Birmingham. However, injuries, and the form of Titus Bramble and Michael Turner kept Mensah out of the starting line up until Sunderland's victory against Stoke City on 6 November 2010, where he replaced the suspended Bramble.

Mensah received a straight red card in a match against Liverpool on 20 March 2011 after a foul on Luis Suárez. This was later rescinded.[33] On 9 April 2011, Mensah suffered a Grade Two adductor tear just 11 minutes into Saturday's 3–2 home defeat by West Brom and his future at Sunderland is in doubt due to injury.[34][35] Mensah was out of actions for three weeks until Mensah made a return as an unused sub in a 3–0 defeat against Fulham.[36] Mensah made his return against Bolton Wanderers in a 2–1 win as his Ghanaian teammate Sulley Muntari scored a winner in a 90th minutes but Zat Knight score the own goal.[37] Mensah made his last appearance for Sunderland in a 3–1 loss against Wolves on 14 May 2011.[38] Following Sunderland loss, Mensah and Nedum Onuoha had a furious dressing-room bust-up after Onuoha criticised Mensah's display, sparking a confrontation in which the two had to be separated by teammates to stop it escalating.[39]

However, Manager Steve Bruce decided not to take a permanent move for Mensah due his persistent injury problems make him too much of a risk,[40] so Mensah returned to Lyon. Previously, Mensah move was an option included in the initial move that the deal would be made permanent if Mensah played 25 Premier League matches.[41]

Return to Olympique Lyon from Loan[edit]

Mensah returned to his parent club Lyon in August 2011, after spending the 2009–10 Premier League and 2010–11 Premier League seasons on loan to Sunderland. On his return from Lyon, Mensah made one appearance on, 8 July 2011, in a friendly match in a 1-0 loss against Red Bull Salzburg, where he made things worse by giving away a penalty, resulting him to have a red card.[42] After making one appearance, he was hardly used this season due injury and didn't play a single game at Lyon this season. On 8 July 2012, Mensah was finally released from the club after terminating his contract at Lyon.[43]

After being released by Lyon, Mensah was linked with lots of club like Bordeaux,[44] Trabzonspor,[45] Celtic[46] and West Ham United.[47]

Return to Rennes[edit]

On 2 January 2013 after having his contract terminated, Mensah then a free agent returned to Rennes and signed a 6-month contract with the club.[48][49] The Ghanaian defender returns to the club where he played 59 games in three seasons from 2006 to 2008, scoring two goals in the process. Upon his return, Mensah received a 25 number shirt. He made his first appearance since returning, in a Coupe de France campaign, as Rennes lose 2–1 to Lens.[50] Just only four appearance in his second spell at Rennes, Mensah left the club after his future was uncertain.[51]

FC Nitra[edit]

He made his FC Nitra debut on March 2014, in a game against Slovan Bratislava.

International career[edit]

John Mensah playing for Ghana at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.

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 centre-half, 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.[52] and Djibril Cissé [3]. (Tied after 90 minutes, the Ghana – Brazil[53] 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.)

Mensah’s 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 Ghana’s 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 Ghana’s 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. In 2010, Mensah captained Ghana to an impressive quarter final finish at the World Cup.

International goals[edit]

Goal # Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 7 October 2011 Al-Hilal Stadium, Khartoum, Sudan  Sudan 2–0 Win 2012 CAF Qualifying
2 24 January 2012 Stade de Franceville, Franceville, Gabon  Botswana 1–0 Win 2012 Africa Cup of Nations
3 5 February 2012 Stade de Franceville, Franceville, Gabon  Tunisia 2–1 Win 2012 Africa Cup of Nations
Correct as of 9 March 2017[54]

Personal life[edit]

John is the half brother of Ghana national team player Ekow Benson.[citation needed]




  1. ^ Hugman, Barry J., ed. (2010). The PFA Footballers' Who's Who 2010–11. Mainstream Publishing. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-84596-601-0. 
  2. ^ "Chievo land Ghanaian". Sky Sports. 11 June 2002. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Profile of John Mensah". 1 January 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  4. ^ "Mensah, homme providentiel". 28 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-28. 
  5. ^ "Rennes: John Mensah prolonge d’une saison supplémentaire". 17 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  6. ^ "Mensah snubs Royals". 17 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
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  8. ^ "Mensah in Pompey link". Sky Sports. May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
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  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Rennes : J. Mensah – "on a de l'espoir"". 26 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  13. ^ "OL : Puel veut Abidal ou Mensah". 18 June 2008. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
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  17. ^ "ARRIVAL OF JOHN MENSAH" (PDF). OL Group. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
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  24. ^ "Lyon Defender John Mensah: Racist Abuse Made Me Yearn For Ghana". 17 February 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Fan charged over Mensah abuse". BBC Sport. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "No Leniency For Lyon’s Racial Abuse Victim John Mensah". 20 February 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
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  28. ^ Mensah à Sunderland «à 95%»
  29. ^ Mensah à Sunderland lundi? Archived 18 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
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  31. ^ "Man City 4–3 Sunderland". BBC Sport. 19 December 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
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  33. ^ "Red card for Sunderland's John Mensah against Liverpool rescinded". The Guardian. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  34. ^ "Sunderland 2 – 3 West Brom". BBC Sport. 9 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  35. ^ "Mensah's injury problems put permanent Sunderland switch in jeopardy". Daily Mirror. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  36. ^ "Sunderland 0 – 3 Fulham". BBC. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  37. ^ "Bolton 1 – 2 Sunderland". BBC. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  38. ^ "Sunderland 1 – 3 Wolverhampton". BBC. 14 May 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  39. ^ "Sunderland defenders Nedum-Onuoha and John-Mensah bust-up following loss to Wolves". Daily Mail. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  40. ^ "Sunderland pass on deal for John Mensah". Chronicle Live. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  41. ^ "Agent – No Mensah deal". Sky Sport. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
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  43. ^ "Ghana's Mensah leaves Lyon over injuries on 27 July John Mensah accepted and signed a 2 years contract with Norwegian club Rosenborg Ballklub.". Ahram Online. 8 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  44. ^ "Bordeaux could move for Ghana captain Mensah". MTN Football. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  45. ^ "Trabzonspor leading race to sign John Mensah". Ghana Soccernet. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  46. ^ "Celtic switch interests Mensah". Sky Sports. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  47. ^ "West Ham set to snap up free agent defender Mensah despite Sunderland flop". Daily Mail. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  48. ^ "Ghanaian defender John Mensah joins French side Rennes". BBC Sport. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  49. ^ "Ligue 1 - Ghana defender Mensah back at Rennes". Yahoo! Eurosport. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  50. ^ "RC Lens vs Rennes Lineups and Statistics". 6 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
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  52. ^ "Ghana shocks Brazil 2–1 in World Youth Cup quarterfinal". 1 July 2001. Retrieved 2001-07-01. 
  53. ^ "FIFA World Youth Championship Argentina 2001, Quarter-finals: Ghana 2–1 Brazil". 1 July 2001. Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Retrieved 2001-07-01. 
  54. ^ John Mensah - International Appearances

External links[edit]