If it weren’t for that pesky buy option in Matt Miazga’s loan contract with Nantes, you’d be tempted to say that he’s the poster boy for how the loan system can develop a player for Chelsea.
He came to us from the New York Red Bulls as a 20-year-old, played three times and was loaned to Vitesse the next season. Over two seasons in the Netherlands he built himself up from a reserve and spot starter to a fixture in the first eleven and helping Vitesse to the KNVB Cup, their first ever major trophy in club hisotry, as well as qualification for the Europa League. He played in 72 and started 59 games by the time he was done. And he credits his loan for forcing him to focus on improving his game.
“In Holland the main focus for me was to really focus on my craft. I wouldn’t say I’m a young player because I’m not young anymore. I’m 23 now, but [when I went there] I was 21 and being in Holland, being alone, no distractions, it really made me think and made me focus on my craft and just put in the time, put in the effort in my craft and solely my craft because it will just pay so much dividends in the future.
”I was able to do that and really focus day by day on just becoming better, and that really helped me, shaped me to where I’m at now. I felt like I’ve always had these qualities, but in Holland it really came out of me.”
In a nutshell, that’s exactly how Chelsea hope all the loan players respond to being thrown into the deep end in a new country and a new league. Miazga was mature and he improved.
Matt Miazga joined FC Nantes last month, but not before talking to Alejandro Bedoya about the club and not before turning down other options in England and France.— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) September 6, 2018
My story for @ESPNFC on Miazga’s reasonings behind the move here:https://t.co/4EyUGaSJUB#USMNT #FCNantes
Now that’s he’s looking to repeat the experience in France. He can’t speak French and he hasn’t started his lessons yet, but he’s already won himself a starting job, playing every single minute in Nantes’ last three matches.
“Football is the universal language and when you’re on the pitch, your football does the talking. Settling in has been different because of the language barrier, but all the guys are very helpful as well. I’m always asking questions, they’re always telling me the words and all that stuff. A couple guys even speak English and the coaching staff speaks English, so settling in through that is much easier.”
Nantes wasn’t a casual choice. As befits a man who has committed himself to his career, Miazga studied the team, talked to the coach and president (“I had a really good feeling about the project that they had here”) and got feedback from fellow American Alejandro Bedoya, who played there for three years.
“I spoke with him about his time here at Nantes just to get a feel for everything. He couldn’t say enough good things about it, and when you look at Ligue 1, it’s a top-five league. France just won the World Cup, so there’s going to be a lot of eyes, a lot of people, and a lot more exposure of Ligue 1 around the world now.
”I felt like it’s the right step for me to come here and prove myself and show what I’m capable of.”
Which brings us to the only cloud in this sunny story. Miazga’s loan agreement includes a buy option. If he continues to hold his place and improve, Nantes may well want to exercise it and make him a permanent Canary.
That would be Chelsea’s loss. Miazga won’t talk about it. One game at a time, and all that. It’s that whole focus thing.
“I’m not thinking too far ahead right now. I’m thinking about FC Nantes this season, I’m really focused on this season. I’m making sure I’m taking this season day by day, week by week, and we’ll see what happens in the future.
”If you told me two years ago that I’m going to play in Ligue 1, I wouldn’t picture myself there, but I picture myself here now. It’s the right step and it’s perfect for me.”
-Matt Miazga; source: ESPN
A success story, really. The man has matured, improved and made a career for himself in Europe — not many thought he would do that when he decided to make the leap to Europe.
Chelsea will no doubt count him as a success story if we make money by selling him. After all, that is one of the main goals of the Loan Army, to supplement income through player development and transfers. But it makes me a bit sad to think that he may never again have a chance to be the first* American to earn a regular starting job for Chelsea.
* Roy Wegerle was not yet an American for any of his 28 appearances for the club back in the late ‘80s.