Asked to explain his resurgence last year, Philippe Mexes cited "hard work, desire and luck" as the secrets behind his return to the AC Milan line-up. Those qualities have served him well more than once too, because the centre-half has made a habit of proving doubters wrong.
Out of favour at the start of recent campaigns under Massimiliano Allegri, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi, the Frenchman bounced back each time to end with more playing time than any other Rossoneri defender. In fact, his formula has worked wonders at both ends of the pitch, with the 33-year-old among the candidates for the 2015 FIFA Puskás Award, which celebrates the finest goal of the year.
Mexes's own contribution to the shortlist came on 25 July, as Milan tackled neighbours and arch-rivals Inter at the International Champions Cup in Shenzhen, China PR. The defender turned in a solid performance at the back – thanks in no small part to his hard work and desire – but he lit up the game with a wonderful volley from the edge of the area on the right, the ball soaring high into the opposite corner of the net.
"What a great goal I scored," he exclaimed afterwards, that strike having sealed a 1-0 derby triumph for his team. Even he, though, had to admit that his old friend luck had played a role. "I'll be honest, I got lucky," he added. "But if you don't try, you can't succeed."
A touch of déjà vu
Mexes is certainly the type of player to have a go, and on this occasion the results surpassed his expectations. Waiting for a corner from the left taken by Giacomo Buenaventura, the former Auxerre stopper stood unmarked on the edge of the area, where he made no real move to find the perfect position. Instead, he just waited, before flinging himself in the air and connecting with the ball at chest height to send it beyond Juan Pablo Carrizo.
Good fortune was of course involved, but it would be unfair to downplay the element of pure skill. After all, the French international scored an equally good, possibly even better, effort against Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League in November 2012. Waiting for a free-kick in a similar position on the edge of the area, Mexes controlled with his chest before unleashing a magnificent bicycle kick that also sailed high into the far corner.
Despite the quality of the strike, the FIFA Puskás Award that year went to Miroslav Stoch, who topped the poll with a goal very similar to Mexes's more recent masterpiece. Likewise lurking around the edge of the area, the Slovakian international rifled a volley high into the net direct from a corner.
That could prove a good omen for Mexes, but it is you – the users of FIFA.com and francefootball.fr – who will ultimately get to decide. Watch the ten goals on the shortlist and vote for your favourite by 30 November 2015, before making your selection from the three eventual finalists.