© Muzi Ntombela
Mendieta during his debut match for SundownsAuthor: John AliuHaving spent three years in the Cape Winelands playing with Stellenbosch, Júnior Mendieta is no stranger to South African football and his experience at the top level makes him a vital player for Bafana Ba Style ahead of an action-packed season. The Argentine midfielder was instrumental in Stellies achieving a club-record fourth-place finish in the league during the 2021/22 campaign. He also featured prominently to help fire the team to a historic first Nedbank Cup semi-final last season.

Mendieta enthusiastically shared his thoughts on becoming a part of the Masandawana family, stating, “To make this move means that I have done my job very well during the past few years and having the opportunity to play for such a big team in South Africa is truly exciting. There is so much that lies ahead at this club and I am pleased to be part of it.”

Júnior holds the distinction of becoming the third-ever Argentine to play for Mamelodi Sundowns, following in the footsteps of Vicente Principiano in 2005 and Emiliano Tade in 2021. However, what truly sets Mendieta apart and makes him particularly special is his remarkable versatility, offensive capabilities and ball-striking techniques—a combination of attributes he shares with his retired namesake, Gaizka Mendieta, the Spanish legend.

When asked about what it means to share the same name with Gaizka, the new Sundowns signing confidently responded, “I don't feel any pressure at all. Everyone writes their own story in football and tries to give their best. Gaizka left his mark, and I am eager to carve my own name and create my own legacy.”
© Sundowns MediaJúnior Mendieta In TrainingDespite being deployed in several midfield and attacking positions during his time in the Western Cape, Mendieta impressively scored 15 goals in 79 appearances across all competitions. Last season, he scored 10 goals and recorded nine assists in just 31 appearances, which saw him clinch the club’s Footballer of the Season and also the Players’ Player of the Season awards.

When asked about his vision for Bafana Ba Style, the 30-year-old midfielder said, “I am ready to give everything for my new club. I am determined to win important trophies here and etch my name in the history of the club. I love to play with passion and I am fully prepared to contribute my best to the team’s success this season.”

The skillful midfielder opened up about the reason for his passion for the game, saying, “I faced many struggles because I came from a humble background. However, in everything I do in life, I approach it with passion. Whether on the field or in my personal life, I strive to overcome obstacles, work diligently and continuously learn. Being a role model for my children is of utmost importance to me because I firmly believe that setting good examples begins at home.”

Júnior was also eager to speak about the legend who has inspired him the most, saying, “My idol is Juan Román Riquelme. Ever since I was a child, I have been attracted to his distinctive style of play, his brilliant footballing mind and his exceptional vision on the field. I consider him one of the best to ever play the game.”
Before his move to South Africa, Mendieta played for Deportivo Morón, Atlético Lanús, Atlético Los Andes and Atlético de Rafaela, all in Argentina.
© Sundowns MediaJúnior Mendieta In TrainingFive fun facts about Júnior Mendieta:1.South African Delight: Among the various South African dishes, Júnior’s top favorite is Pap with steak and gravy sauce, a mouthwatering combination that tantalizes his taste buds.2.Alternate Career Path: If fate had led him away from professional football, Júnior would have embraced a career as a skilled construction bricklayer, using his hands to build a different kind of success.3.Beloved Beyond Sundowns: Beyond his love for Mamelodi Sundowns, he holds a special place in his heart for Boca Juniors, the club where his idol Juan Román Riquelme played in several eras. The connection is deepened by his entire family’s passion for Boca.4.A Childhood Dream: Soccer runs in his veins, ignited by his father’s influence. He started playing the sport at the tender age of six, nurturing a dream to become a professional football player. His passion and dedication made that dream a reality.5.Ultimate Argentine XI: In his dream team, Júnior includes legendary Argentine players such as Roberto Abbondanzieri (GK), Roberto Ayala, Juan Pablo Sorín, Javier Mascherano, Juan Román Riquelme, Pablo Aimar, Fernando Gago, Ángel Di María, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Gabriel Batistuta. Imagining this lineup reflects his admiration for the best footballing talent from his homeland.With an impressive record set during his time at Stellenbosch, Júnior Mendieta will be aiming to replicate that remarkable form with Ka Bo Yellow in all six competitions. As an experienced campaigner in South Africa’s topflight, he brings potent firepower that will undoubtedly bolster the team’s attacking prowess.