Carlos Mendes Gomes is the Atletico academy graduate looking to fire Morecambe through the League Two play-offs… from Koke pep-talks to playing in the ninth tier, he now wants to add Wembley to his incredible footballing journey
- Carlos Mendes Gomes has been a star for Morecambe this season in League Two
- The winger has contributed with 15 goals and six assists during the campaign
- Now the former Atletico Madrid is keen to fire Derek Adams’ side to Wembley
- Morecambe take on Tranmere in the first leg of a play-off semi-final on Thursday
From Atletico Madrid to Morecambe, via the North West Counties Football League. It is safe to say Carlos Mendes Gomes’ route into professional football has been far from conventional.
Having signed his first deal just three years ago, the 22-year-old is making up for lost time, and is aiming to fire the Shrimps into the League Two play-off final and a date with Wembley.
It’s a destination that felt a million miles away when he arrived in England from Spain with his family in 2015.
Carlos Mendes Gomes (right) has experience playing against top flight clubs as he battles with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta earlier this season in an FA Cup tie
But now the Morecambe star is hoping to fire them into the League Two play-off final
For a winger that has oozed talent in the fourth tier this season – his 15 goals and six assists give him more goal involvements than any team-mate this term – Mendes Gomes found it particularly difficult to get his foot in the door.
‘It was tough,’ he recalls ahead of Thursday’s first-leg against Tranmere. ‘I was calling the likes of United, City because those were the clubs that I knew.
‘I called them and they were like “Yeah we’re not holding trials”. At the time I was 16 so I was meant to start on a scholarship.
‘I didn’t know about the English system, I didn’t know how it worked, I didn’t know the pyramid.
The winger has starred in League Two this term, scoring 15 goals and creating six assists
‘So I had to do all my research to know more about it. I started ringing clubs in the Championship at the time the likes of Bolton, Wigan.
‘It was like “Oh yeah, we’ll ring you back just send an email,” blah blah blah… I knew that obviously I’m on the phone to them saying to them: “Oh I came from Spain, I used to play for Atletico”. Who knows, it might be anyone from the street, so they don’t believe it. I didn’t even blame them.’
As difficult as it was for those clubs to believe, they did indeed have an Atletico pupil banging on the door.
Mendes Gomes was born in Senegal in 1998. Four years later he and his mother Maria moved to Lanzarote with father Carlos, who had been working in Spain as a construction labourer.
Carlos Jr grew up in a large household which included his three cousins. Having first kicked a ball at the age of three, it was when one cousin, Felipe, moved to Madrid for university that it was decided his talents could be nurtured better in the Spanish capital.
Mendes admits he initially found it tough after moving to England from Spain in 2015
Moving with his 21-year-old relative, a 13-year-old Carlos began doorstepping clubs in the hope of getting a game.
‘I just went to training grounds pretty much knocking on the doors, and Getafe gave me the opportunity to actually play for them,’ he says. Within 12 months, bigger opportunities arose.
‘I had this team-mate that I got along really well with so the dad would be the one that dropped me off and picked me up from my house.
‘He said to me, “there’s someone that I know at Atletico Madrid and they want you to actually go for trials”, which caught me by surprise.
‘I just went there for a week and I just remember after the second day they said: ‘Yeah, we’re signing you.’
While balancing school and football, the set-up and facilities at Ciudad Deportiva Atletico de Madrid worked wonders for Mendes Gomes and his confidence. So, too, did the interactions with renowned names.
Mendes Gomes joined Atletico Madrid as a young player where he involved in Koke pep-talks
‘Koke was the one,’ he says. ‘That season was his breakout season in the first team. Everyone knew him around Madrid.
‘He had a speech where he came and spoke to us. For him it was tough because not many players from the Atletico Madrid academy came to the first team and have done what he has done.
‘He had experience of people telling him to go on loan, but he just wanted to play for Atletico Madrid, he wanted to play for nobody else. He just worked hard and said he got his chance and took it with both hands.’
Mendes Gomes has been forced to wait a little longer for his chance. With his cousin leaving Madrid, it was decided that he would move with his family to Salford.
After a year without a club and with only 5-a-side matches at Manchester’s Ten Acres Lane complex to scratch his footballing itch, some encouragement from his parents saw him join West Didsbury and Chorlton in the ninth rung of the English game. Taking this bus, it was a 90-minute round trip just to train.
‘It was really, really different from what I was used to,’ he admits.
I had to ask the players how to like bring the nets out to actually play. The grass wasn’t flat, it was more like a park kind of thing, so it was quite tough. But at that point I didn’t care, I just wanted to kick the ball.’
After struggling to find a club initially, Mendes Gomes eventually joined Morecambe in 2018
Originally playing with the Under 18s, Mendes Gomes confounded concerns about his slight build on his first appearance for the senior team, scoring and assisting from the bench.
Those same fears saw Derby County pass up on the opportunity to sign him after a trial, but it was Morecambe who gave him his opportunity in 2018 after impressing while playing at The Manchester College.
‘For me it meant everything,’ he says. ‘It was the start of something. I told my family and they were obviously over the moon.
‘Seeing my name printed on the back of a shirt meant the world to me.’
That name has been printed in more and more column inches as this season has progressed, with his performances turning heads up and down the country, and further afield, too.
Senegal have informed Mendes Gomes that they are keeping track on his progress, with the view to a future call-up.
After just missing out on automatic promotion, Derek Adams’ side are in the play-offs
Morecambe face Tranmere Rovers in their semi-final tie looking to book a spot at Wembley
For now, the focus is on matters a little closer to home, and his bid to help Derek Adams’ side secure a spot at the National Stadium on May 31.
Having just missed out on an automatic spot, Mendes Gomes insists the disappointment won’t affect their drive against Tranmere, with fans now back for the play-offs.
‘If you told the whole team in pre-season that we would secure a play-off spot we would have snapped your hand off for that,’ he says.
‘Knowing that we were so close is a bit frustrating. But we go into it positive and that we can lift it more than anyone else.’
Lifting a piece of silverware at Wembley is an opportunity Mendes Gomes is looking to take with both hands.
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