This time of the season can be a stressful one for many clubs. Going for the title, qualification to the European cups, or fighting for survival. For others, they got their business wrapped up already. Thanks to Jean-Philippe Mateta, Mainz fans can rest easy in their beds. The young striker has scored 12 goals this season, and at just under 1/3 of Mainz’s total goals, Mateta has definitely played a big part in the clubs survival this season. Just like another of our ones to watch, Dodi Lukebakio, Mateta has gone to find his place in Germany.
Mateta’s youth and a difficult journey
Born on 28th June 1997 in Paris to Congolese parents, Mateta grew up around football. His father played in Congo, and only a serious injury stopped him having a long career. Despite this, the young striker believes it had the opposite effect to what many would believe. He said in an interview “At first, my mother told me later, he was completely against it. He did not want me to live through something like him. The injury, the end of the career, all of this has got him mentally paralyzed. He wanted to spare me that”
The youngest of six siblings, Mateta had a difficult upbringing. Unlike many young players who get scouted at a young age to top clubs, Mateta had to do things differently. The young Frenchman started his career at the Parisian clubs, FC Sevran and FA Drancy. At the age of just 17, Mateta left home to join French third-tier club Châteauroux, who brought him into professional football, and it was lucky they did! In 2016, aged just 19, the French giants Lyon snapped up the youngster, and in September of that year he made his debut.
Jean-Philippe Mateta – Never satisfied
Many would think that this would be just the start of the journey. Work your way through the ranks and wait your turn for your chance at the big club. Not for Jean-Philippe Mateta . Always striving for more, he was not happy to play the waiting game. As he said in his own words, “They only made me work there. I should work on my coordination, develop my body. They wanted to show me how the big ones are doing. At the same time I just sat on the bench or played in the second team. I did not feel like it. So I used the first opportunity to loan myself.”
It was shortly after joining Lyon, that the striker moved to the French second division and had an extremely successful season with Le Havre, scoring 17 goals in just 35 games. After returning from loan, it was clear he wasn’t happy, and in the summer of 2018, Mateta signed for Mainz, becoming their most expensive signing of all time at 10 million Euros
Mateta – The man Mainz have been missing
This season has been a breakout one for the French youngster. With 12 goals this season, Mateta has shown he can score when it counts. Scoring some influential goals, it’s clear to see he has what Mainz have been missing. From this, a strong finish to the season, where he scored an impressive 5 goals in 3 games. The first hat trick of his career in Germany to start. The arguably more important 2 came in the recent 3-1 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf to confirm their position in the first division.
Mateta play style analysis
In his own words, the ambitious Mateta has likened himself to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Tall and imposing, Mateta is a standout player on the pitch. Standing at 6ft 3, the Frenchman is impressive in the air. Winning an incredible 3.4 aerials per game, only 5 forwards have more in the German league (over 15 apps). He takes quite a high number of shots per game at 2.9, only 4 forwards have more (including another of our ones to watch, Luka Jovic). He is also able to get in behind, making smart runs to be put through on goal.
A good understanding with his team mates, Mateta is able to make the run knowing he will be put through, and that confidence is impressive in someone so young. He can find space in a crowded box, demonstrating a strong understanding of the game and a natural strikers instinct. The young Parisian is a team player – he makes runs not just for himself but smart runs to create space for teammates. As demonstrated in a number of goals this season, Mateta loves one on ones. Showing a coolness in front of goal, he can take it round the keeper or provide a classy finish.
Jean-Philippe Mateta – Next steps
A newcomer to the French under-21 team, Mateta has started strongly with an impressive 2 goals in 5 appearences. With France qualifying for the under-21 European championships in the summer, Mateta will be looking to show his talents among some other talented individuals in Europe. After surviving in the top division, Mainz will now look to build on their impressive goal scoring season and drive themselves up the table and push for European competitions. It won’t be long before Mateta gets onto the radar for some of the big clubs in Europe, so hopefully the German side can make the most of his talents before then!