Holder for the second time in Ligue 1 against Metz on Saturday and author of his first decisive pass under the colors of AS Monaco, Eliot Matazo put all the Rock in his pocket in a few months. Portrait of a young Belgian in vogue.
“I liked this first,” he concludes with a broad smile. Humble and good speaker, Eliot Matazo, 19, has just made a perfect copy for his baptism of fire at a press conference, before the meeting against Metz for the eighth-finals of the Coupe de France (this Tuesday, 6:45 p.m.). In front of the media, the defensive midfielder appeared as comfortable as with the ball on Saturday, against the same Lorraine people, crowned with a sublime assist for Kévin Volland (4-0 against Metz), his first in a jersey of AS Monaco which he wears since 2018 after having been trained in the illustrious Brussels club of Anderlecht. This pass, moreover, did not go unnoticed in the eyes of his former coach. “Recovery of the ball, forward projection and last pass, it’s Eliot Matazo in the text”, analyzes Mohamed Ouahbi, U17 trainer of Anderlecht.
From a golden generation
Because before joining the club of the Principality, the native of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, a small town on the outskirts of Brussels, made the heyday of the young teams of the most successful club in Belgium. “He was 16 in 2018 when we outclassed him with the U17s. He was part of the 2002 generation, it was something. There was Jérémy Doku (now in Rennes) or Killian Sardella (current defender) of Anderlecht’s first team), contextualizes Mohamed Ouahbi. Good technically and in impact, high volume of play, able to repeat efforts, comfortable with the ball in his foot… He was on top. “
But in Belgium, the system is not the same as in France. At 16, the player is free and decides whether or not to sign his first professional contract with his training club. “In 2018, Anderlecht offered a first professional contract to more than ten young talents. Among them: Verschaeren, Doku, Aït El Hadj, Colassin, Lissens, Sardella and therefore Matazo, one of the only ones to have refused it, explains Pieter-Jan Calcoen, journalist at Het Laatste Niews. The disappointment was great in Brussels because he was a youngster from the club and there was a real desire to keep him. “
“He has always been seen as a great talent in Anderlecht, adds Sacha Tavolieri, RMC Sport consultant on Belgian football. Marc Coucke, owner of the club and at the time president, had made it a priority. He did not succeed. to hold it back. ” Mohamed Ouahbi is more nuanced: “It is certain that the club was disappointed to lose Eliot but we had nevertheless managed to extend many coveted players, the pill went more easily in this context”.
Monaco rather than Bayern, Manchester City or Juventus
Two reasons can explain the refusal to sign with his training club. First, the vagueness around his near future among the Violets. “Anderlecht did not play their young players at all so on the sporting project, it was not possible to continue,” said someone close to the player. Then, the interest of big European clubs for the small defensive midfielder (1.74m). “Anderlecht cannot or does not know how to compete with foreign resources”, regrets journalist Pieter-Jan Calcoen, especially in the face of institutions of such caliber …
Eliot Matazo is only 16 years old and Bayern, Dortmund, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus, Southampton and Monaco are giving him sweet eyes. It is the club of the Principality which wins the stake. “It is true that Anderlecht tried to keep me and it was not an easy choice to refuse but the Monaco project convinced me. It is a club which, historically, has launched a lot of young people Many started here, others have emerged in the eyes of Europe, it is a beautiful showcase “, assumes the main concerned. “It was never a financial choice as we could read or hear in Belgium, it is the sporting project which tipped the scales towards Monaco, connects a close relative of the player. In Manchester or at Bayern, there were less certainties, in the end the choice was simply made. “
Mohamed Ouahbi, he knew before anyone else that his protégé would join the Rock. The anecdote ready to smile: “We spoke only once with Eliot about his future. It was when Liverpool were ready to put the package on Doku and where Arsenal wanted Sardella. They stayed at the club but not Eliot. He wanted to leave, he wanted to see something else, to escape. He still continued the season with us and we finished champion. When we knew he was going to sign in Monaco, that everyone in was talking, I’m going to see him in the locker room to congratulate him and wish him the best of luck. He says ‘Coach, I have something to tell you. You were in Monaco not long ago, were you?’ I had just returned from an internship in the Principality for my coaching license. He tells me that with his mother, he saw me in front of the training center. I don’t know if it was to discuss or sign but when they saw me in the distance, they turned around. Imagine the shock, you go all the way to Monaco and you find your coach who is not supposed to know that you are there “.
A first tenure marked with a hot iron for the one who is nicknamed “Rio”
The young Eliot therefore landed on the Rock, joined the Academy in the summer of 2018 and signed a first contract until 2020, extended last year by three years. Among young people, the kid stands out, not enough to surprise his ex-educator. “When he was upgraded with us he was immediately efficient, remembers Mohamed Ouahbi. He showed that he had temperament. I took him for a big tournament in the Netherlands during which we had beaten the PSG (3-0), he was up to the task, was not afraid to dare, the kind of signs that show he was ready for a career. “
In a short time, the young Eliot rose through the ranks and caught the eye of the coach of the first team, Niko Kovac, who arrived in the summer of 2020 at the head of AS Monaco. On September 27, Rio (nicknamed by his teammates for its similarities with the former Lille Rio Mavuba) had his first minutes of play in Ligue 1 against Strasbourg at the Stade Louis II (3-2). Placed at the heart of the game, he is at ease. Three months later, comes the time for the first tenure, against Saint-Etienne.
The young Belgian replaces Youssouf Fofana, suspended. We have been playing Louis II for 35 minutes and Monaco is led (1-2) when Matazo tries a pass in midfield, touching Denis Bouanga’s ankle in the extension of his gesture. Monsieur Hamel takes out the red, the boy is annoyed. “It was a flagrant injustice, recalls one of his relatives. He was very sad at the end of the match but he received the support of his coach, his vice-president, his sports director, it reassured him. He turned the page and got back to work. “
A hard worker
Work is one of the favorite pastimes of “Rio” Matazo, who has secured the services of a personal physical trainer, Ronald Kabeya since last December. The latter, domiciled in Brussels, also takes care of other Ligue 1 players such as Jérémy Doku (Rennes), Aaron Leya Iseka (Metz), as well as many professional players in Belgium. During each winter break, when Eliot returns to the Belgian capital to reunite with his family, Ronald Kabeya finds Monaco number 36: “There are those who take vacations, who do nothing or very little. He works. works proprioception in relation to the characteristics of his game. We do sheathing, support work. He is very disciplined in relation to what is asked of him at AS Monaco. He sends me the club’s program and we adjusts together to see what he can do besides. Eliot is also really investing in his body. I showed him some material that I was using for recovery and he said to me ‘give me the reference, I will go there ‘buy'”.
Normal for the person concerned: “It’s important to focus on all the details. There is a questioning of my performance during each session with Ronald, we look at how I can develop myself physically and athletically”. Everything to please his rigorous coach, Niko Kovac: “Eliot is a phenomenon. He works very hard, day after day, always at the same pace. He is an exemplary player”. Same story for his teammate and competitor at the sentry post, Youssouf Fofana: “He is a young player who has been working since the start of the season, he is very rigorous and disciplined. He manages to scratch a lot of balls, repeats the efforts , it is very dynamic over the first ten or twenty meters, always placed in the right place “.
But if there’s one person Eliot Matazo still can’t beat, it’s Benjamin Lecomte. “He makes sure to arrive very early at the training center to work before the session, says Ronald Kabeya. He told me that his guardian was always the first to arrive at the gym. He tries to be there beforehand. him but he never succeeds (laughs). Eliot takes his example from hardworking people and experienced players, those who have won a lot of trophies like Cesc Fabregas. “
The Spaniard also praised the Belgian international hope after his performance against Metz last Saturday: “I’m happy for him (to have delivered his first assist) because he is a guy who works a lot, he doesn’t play much but in training he does things well, he listens, asks for advice, asks questions and wants to do more every day “. A rigor coupled with an “exceptional mentality” according to a relative: “He is always in the positive, wanting to fight. That’s how he will succeed in integrating the eleven of Kovac.”
In a family cocoon
Once training is over, Eliot Matazo can rely on his family, who came with him to the Principality when he left Anderlecht. The midfielder lives in Monaco with his mother and two of his sisters. “The entourage is essential in a football career”, underlines his personal physical trainer. When your parents are behind you, when you have their confidence, you can work even better. “A way also to calm the mind, according to one of the player’s relatives:” It is important to be able to keep your family nucleus close. of oneself when there is a big change at the beginning of a career. He’s coming back from football, he’s at home, with his family, it’s easier for him, it helps “.
And it is not his mother Ginette who will say the opposite. “We accompany him. We have adapted well here and he is well with the family,” she smiles. Maman Matazo is an important person in the balance of the 19-year-old Belgian. “She has been by my side from the start, admits the recuperating medium. She watches over everything that may happen around me, she has the role of the gendarme (laughs).” “The gendarme?!, Laughs the mother. He has to be, he’s still young you know, he has a lot of time ahead of him. I’m proud of him.” The son continues: “She is very much on the lookout, aware of everything I do and follows all my returns”.
At the same time, Ginette does not seem to have much choice: “Ah Eliot, it’s football, football, football, since he was very little. Sometimes he is on the sofa and he says to me ‘Come on mom, come and watch the game with me. He watches all his friends’ meetings and he never misses a match with his friend Jérémy (Doku, Stade Rennais midfielder). ” This is a detail that may cause the chambering of some of his teammates, already very teasing with their new mascot.