Mateta: Expectations will rise
Despite a late return to training, 14-goal striker Mateta is on the right track and wants to improve his tally next season – father’s target exceeded
Jean-Philippe Mateta returned to the club at the start of the training camp in Grassau after being given an extra holiday period due to taking part in the U21 European Championships with the French national team, and is back doing what he does best – scoring goals. “I’m not a striker for nothing. The day I forget how to score goals is the day I’ll have to play somewhere else,” said the 22-year-old.
Usually known as ‘JP’, the striker is almost always in a good mood an up for a laugh. On this lunchtime, JP is relaxing in the hotel lobby. Jean-Paul Boëtius, who passes by and comments on the posture of his teammate, is dismissed with a limp gesture as he says he’s working. “I’m just tired,” says Mateta. The Frenchman says nothing really dampens his mood. “That’s just how I am – it’s how I grew up. We were always laughing in my family and I picked it up from my mother, who always had a smile on her face,” said Mateta. “But today, training was very, very hard – I’m just exhausted.”
Back in the swing of things in 14 days
After video analysis sessions, the head coach worked on one-on-one duels in training which put Mateta and his teammates through their paces. Sandro Schwarz has previously praised the forward but said the next stage in his development is to work on his skills out of possession. “And that’s exactly why we’re doing this type of drill,” said a relaxed Mateta.
For Schwarz, Mateta and the other EURO U21 players’ late return to training is not such a big issue. “However, we have to keep an eye on them to make sure we don’t overload them as we try to bring them up to the right condition ahead of the first game.” Schwarz feels his striker has already shown good signs again and has a good goal scoring rate, and is a very important part of the team’s attack. He believes Mateta will find his rhythm again within the next two weeks, with the goal scored against Vallecano after just two days of training giving him a boost. “That’s what I need as a striker. My goal is to finish chances better next season and every goal is important on the way,” said Mateta.
The striker managed 14 Bundesliga goals last season, his first in the German top flight. “My expectations have come a long way. I’ve always wanted to score as many goals as possible. It was no accident – I worked very hard and hope that I can keep improving. I have made progress in terms of the coach’s ideas. In order to keep developing there are the friendly matches where you can work on your game,” said the striker, who joined the Zerofivers from French second-division side Le Havre last season.
“The expectations are rising”
In the training camp Mateta also revealed a secret – how many goals his father, who was also a professional footballer in Belgium and Congo, had predicted he would score last season. Ten. “He was very pleased that I managed 14. Nobody could have predicted what would happen,” said Mateta. “Now the expectations are of course higher,” Mateta himself wants even more. “Personally I’m hoping that we can all do better than last year. I want to score more and pick up more assists.”
The U21 EUROS was a personal success for the striker, who played and scored in the competition. His French team lost in the semi-final against eventual winners Spain and teammate Aarón. “When you play professional sports at a high level, you can’t spend too much time looking back and instead have to look to the future. My full focus is on Mainz 05. The tournament is over and checked off.” However, the international experience has whet Mateta’s appetite. “I dream of winning the World Cup and the European Championship with the national team, as well as winning the Champions League. That’s what I am working for every day. If I play a lot of games and score goals and contribute to the success of the team, maybe it will lead to a call up. I am working and doing everything towards that,” said the striker at the training camp in Grassau.