Who is Jean-Philippe Mateta?
(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Born into a family of six, the oldest of his siblings, Mateta grew up in Clamart, a town located on the outskirts of Paris, just a half-an-hour drive away from the metropolitan city.

Mateta developed a passion for football like many other talented players, who have nurtured their skills in the shadows of the French capital, with greats such as Thierry Henry and Patrick Viera, and the stars of today, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba all having followed on a similar path.

Mateta started his career by bouncing around clubs in the suburbs, with Sevran FC and Drancy, two sides who both ply their trade in the lower depths of the French Football League pyramid.

His next move was a brave one, stepping out of his comfort zone to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

Mateta joined Châteauroux and quickly impressed for the side which had just been relegated to the French Championnat League. Mateta scored 7 goals in 13 games for La Berrichonne's B side. Promptly promoted to the first team, without hesitation, Mateta imposed himself on the Championnat League, with his tall powerful frame of 6ft 3inches, but do not be fooled by his height; Mateta is an agile player, someone who can glide past defenders and pluck a chance from thin air.

His impressive return on his debut season of 13 goals scored in 26 games, saw French behemoths, Lyon, court the 19-year-old who was drawing comparison to a young Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Mateta's big move

Lyon moved quickly to secure Mateta's services, following the injury to Alexandre Lacazette, who was sidelined due to muscle problem. Mateta joined through the 'Joker rule' in the French transfer window, a statute that allows Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 sides to sign one player after the summer window shuts.

Mateta arrived at Lyon for fee in the region of around €4 million with added bonuses, on a five-year-deal. His dream move failed get off to a fairytale start. A 14-minute cameo against Montpellier was the extent of his start to life in Ligue 1, with Nabil Fekir keeping Mateta from thrusting himself onto the big stage.

At just 19, Mateta had his first set-back, with Lyon's hand being forced into bringing the striker to the club early due to Lacazett's injury, it was no surprise that when the now Arsenal striker was fit enough to return, Mateta dropped out of the squad all together, sent to a footballing Siberia by then manager, Bruno Génésio.

Tired of wallowing away and stunting his progression in B team football, Mateta set sail for Le Havre on loan. It was here that Mateta really caught the headlines, scoring 19 goals in 37 games. The strong, marauding forward nearly single handedly fired Le Havre to Ligue 1 promotion, coming up just short in the relegation play-off against AC Ajaccio.

Mainz come calling

His lust to feature for Lyon seemingly became near impossible due to the French side bolstering their attacking options with Moussa Dembélé, who joined Lyon from Celtic for a reported £20 million, a fee that would see Dembélé become a club record transfer at the time.

However, for Mateta, his Lyon anguish was not in vain as he had impressed several clubs during his loan spell at Le Havre. Premier League teams were put on standby amidst reports of his desire to leave Lyon; Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspurs both pursued his signature. In the end, Germany was to be his next destination, with the then 21-year-old Mateta choosing the Bundesliga as his next port of call.

Mainz 05 had come off a season which had seen the Rhineland situated side finish the Bundesliga campaign 14th and one of the lowest scorers in the league, sound familiar Palace fans?

The fruitful loan spell at Le Havre had convinced Mainz to pay Lyon almost €10 million for his services and reward Mateta with a four-year-deal. The transfer fee that Mainz had to compensated Lyon with, for Mateta's services, became the record fee Die Nullfünfer had shelled out for a player in the club's history.

His first season provided dividends - Mateta repaid the trust that the club has showed in him by scoring 14 goals and supplying 3 assists. The successful campaign saw Mateta score his first professional hat-trick, a first international call up to the France under-21 side, and the robust forward would also plunder two goals for himself against Fortuna Dusseldorf in a 3-1 win that would seal Mainz place in the Bundesliga for the following season.

His admirable performances only added fuel to rife transfer speculation. Italian giants, Napoli, inquired about his availability, but Mainz were determined to hold on to their prize asset for another season.

A major injury set-back

Looking to build on his impressive season, Mateta was expected to pick up where he left off and take the Bundesliga yet again by storm. Unfortunately for him and Mainz, Mateta would suffer a meniscus injury in pre-season training that would curtail his opportunity to carry over his phenomenal form.

The injury would require surgery, leaving Mateta sidelined for five months. Since the forward returned to full fitness, he has looked a shadow of the player he once was, limping home to finish the season just passed, on 3 goals and only a solitary assist.

Palace's interest

Despite only being able to complete a full 90 minutes of football three times last season, Crystal Palace believe they could help get Mateta's career on track by bringing him to the Premier League to fight alongside Christian Benteke to become the focal point in Roy Hodgson's side.

Palace are in critical need of someone who has the capabilities of putting the ball into the back of the net, taking the pressure off Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha.

Palace took the unwanted record of finishing second lowest goal-scorers from the Premier League 2019/20 season. The Eagles have looked to address their glaringly obvious problem by delving into the transfer market to sign reinforcements. Eberechi Eze has arrived from QPR to help provide an attacking creative spark and the Eagles have not stopped there.

According to German newspaper, Bild, Palace's Sporting Director, Dougie Freedman, was in Germany trying to thrash out negotiations for Mateta with Mainz. Palace had an opening €14 million bid rejected as Mainz claim they see their asset valued more towards the €30 million mark.

Unless Wilfried Zaha was to fly the nest in search of his long sought after European excursion, Palace's hierarchy would feel uneasy about parting with a considerable sum of money for someone who has such a damaging injury, like the one Mateta has had.

Mateta's quality prior to his injury is not in doubt and Palace need options in the forward department, with Benteke's goal shy allergies having a long-lasting effect on the striker who used to strike fear into Premier League defenders.

The Eagles will likely test the waters with a second bid for Mateta, however, will be unable to meet Mainz’s demands as things currently stand, with Palace keen to bring in a centre-back, youngster Armel-Bella Kotchap, and another winger, with Ryan Fraser having been offered a contract to join the Roy Hodgson revolution, following the Scottish 26-year-old leaving Bouremouth on a free transfer. 

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