Go to French football, and one club that has a fine history of player development is Olympique Lyonnais. The Rhone giants have long had a history of giving players a chance to develop into fine first-team level talents. This has continued for many years, though many do admittedly make their name away from Lyon themselves. One fine example of this would be Crystal Palace forward Jean-Philippe Mateta.
The French striker came through at Lyon, though he failed to nail down a regular place. Instead he spent time at FSV Mainz and it was at the carnival club that he began to really assert his name and his place in the game. After several years of relative success in Mainz, he joined Palace and has since become an important rotation option.
However, as fans will know, there have been times when it looked like Mateta would be out the door at the club. Indeed, after signing on a loan contract, it was initially speculated that he would leave the club as soon as six months after his arrival. Palace and Mateta persevered, though, and under Patrick Vieira the forward has gone to a new level.
Now well settled in the club and in England in general, Mateta is looking to really make good on his huge potential. Though he might never become the elite French international some tipped him to be as a youngster, it is clear that the gamble Palace took on his potential was not incorrect.
It might have taken some time to reach this point, but it is now clear that Mateta has a future at the club. If he keeps playing as he does, he could one day even help fetch Palace a tidy profit.
What has changed for Jean-Philippe Mateta?
Really, the main thing has been confidence and a run of games. The player was often given a quick shot as a substitute, before being benched again for weeks on end. Under Vieira, though, Mateta was given that most crucial of things for a footballer: the chance to fail. Knowing that one game without a goal or a major contribution would not see him dropped, Mateta has been able to build up a steady body of work.
Now, he can easily take part in games and make an impact. Another big change relative to previous seasons, though, has been the introduction of a better supporting cast. The return of Eberechi Eze and the return to form of Wilf Zaha has played a role; the arrival of Michael Olise, too, has been a game-changer.
These small bit important contributing factors have played a big role in turning what looked to be a wasted squad number into a genuine competitor. Now, with Palace reaping the rewards, they can hope to see even more from the striker. Mateta has now overcome that most crucial of hurdles in his Palace career; now, the challenge is on him to keep it going and to keep performing on a regular basis.