Jean-Philippe Mateta has signed for Crystal Palace from German side Mainz, becoming the club’s first signing of the January transfer window.
The France Under-21 international joins the side on an 18-month loan deal with an option to buy.
Mateta has been making a name for himself across Europe, impressing in France before moving to Mainz in Germany, where he is the club’s top scorer this season.
Here are the key moments from his career so far:
Mateta was born in the Sevran suburb of Paris, the youngest of seven children. In a community packed with budding footballers, he was determined to do all he could to make it as a professional.
He began playing for a club out of town from the age of 14, spending hours travelling from home each day to make training.
Unlike many young French players, Mateta’s formative years were not spent in the development centre of a major club; instead, he did it the hard way.
After impressing in a trial with then third-division side Châteauroux, he left home for good aged 17 and embarked on the journey to professional football.
Move to Lyon
Having impressed at Chateroux with 16 goals in 27 first-team appearances, Mateta secured a big move to title challengers Lyon. However, his first-team minutes were limited in a frustrating season, with three appearances to his name. When the chance of a loan move and first-team football came knocking, he took it.
Signing for second-division Le Havre, Mateta scored 17 league goals to power his new side towards promotion. In the play-off semi-finals, he scored twice in a 2-2 draw before they were knocked out via penalty shoot-out.
It was at Le Havre that Mateta was able to showcase his eye for goals. “You’re born a striker,” he said. “You are born and greedy for goals. Even as a little boy, I wanted to score, save my team, score the winning goal in close matches and be the one whose name is roared by the fans.”
Attracting attention in Germany, Mateta moved to Mainz for a club-record fee, and found himself back at the top level of European football. Having grown up playing on the streets of Paris, he didn’t let the higher intensity scupper his development:
“If you have learned to play football on the street, you automatically become a fighter,” he told German media.
“Wherever I ended up in my career, there were almost always guys who I thought: ‘They have more comprehensive football training, they are more technically complete, they can do this and that better than me.’ But the point always came when I said to myself: ‘I’m going to destroy it all the more.’
“I was more hungry.”
Mateta’s hunger saw him become Mainz’s top scorer in 2020/21, netting 10 in 17 games across all competitions.
Standing at 6’4” tall, Mateta has been unrelenting in trying to emulate his idol Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goalscoring exploits.
Now, in south London, that’s exactly what he can continue doing.
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