JOEYS midfielder Gian Mendez has sealed a dream move to Spain after signing a three-year professional deal with Valencia.
Gian, the son of former Socceroo Gabriel ‘Chi Chi’ Mendez, originally relocated to Spain with his family because of his tennis-playing sister Seone.
Tennis Australia has supported the move to Europe to help Seone’s development and now the 15-year old attacking midfielder has agreed to a contract after training with the La Liga club.
Gian Mendez has signed a three year deal with a one-year option, taking him through to the age of 19.
“The club has been quite impressed with his performances and believe he can one day make the transition into the first-grade squad,” Gabriel Mendez said.
“My wife Natalia and I hope Gian stays fit and healthy, not to take what he has earned for granted. Stay humble and respectful to others.
"He has put himself in a wonderful position to make the transition into the first grade team in the coming years. He has the footballing ability to go all the way.”
Gian is a Blacktown City junior and spent time at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. A skillful footballer, the teenager has been likened in ability to his father who had a long career in the NSL and made nine appearances for the Socceroos.
“Since making the move to Europe, he now understands that ability alone is nowhere near enough,” Gabriel Mendez says.
“Compared to the leagues back home in Australia, everything is done 10 times faster.
"His whole game has gone to another level, professionalism, pressurising opponents, fitness, first touch under extreme pressure, strength.”
Gian is managed by Andy Bernal, who also handles Tom Rogic as part of Route1’s stable of players. The former Socceroo, who played professionally in Spain, said ‘Chi Chi’ has spent many hours passing on his skills to his son.
“Gian is a great kid with great passion, desire, dedication and discipline but he himself knows that this is only a foot in the door and much more hard work is still required as he chases the dream of playing in the first team,” Bernal said.
“His style of play certainly suits Spanish football and the way they like to play the game and he joins an academy that have produced number 10s like Mata and Silva, so it’s a very exciting time for him.”
Sporting ability runs strong in the Mendez family with Gabriel previously playing professionally in Australia, England and Malaysia, Seone a budding tennis star and mother Natalia also a former NSW junior gymnastics representative. Natalia is an entrepreneur who runs her own tennis apparel label Love Tennis.
Now Gian's 14 year old sister Seone is preparing for her debut at the 2014 Australian Junior Open in Melbourne.
“Being one of Australia's up and comers, Tennis Australia are behind her all the way,” Gabriel said.
“It has enabled my daughter to further develop and compete throughout Europe wherever the major tournaments are played.
"Valencia has numerous high level junior and WTA tournaments throughout the year, the weather is great all year round, and there are a multitude of tennis academies meaning plenty of players to train with.
"In our case Tennis Australia support her financially, access to high profile coaching and a medical team if need be. Seone also has a team of independent business supporting and believing in her journey.
"Our team is called Team Mendez who range from quality coaches, mentors, management and sponsors. JC travel Professionals who manage our travel, Sports Apparel Australia, Love Tennis Apparel, Wealth Lifestyle Financial Planning, Strategic Consulting and Accounting and Flex Infinity.
"This team has been amazing in every way possible. Without their support this transition would not be possible.”