Chelsea have made more than our fair share of (seemingly) random signings over the years, and one of the more unexpected arrivals was young center back Matt Miazga from New York Red Bulls in January 2016. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the newly minted USA international, just 20 at the time, then worked his way into the Chelsea lineup, starting two games under interim boss Guus Hiddink towards the latter end of our forgettable 2015-16 campaign.
He’s not come close to playing another minute fo Chelsea since, spending the next two seasons on loan at
Chelsea B Vitesse (alongside a certain Mason Mount in the second), then bouncing around from France (Nantes for less than 6 months) to England (Reading, for 18 months) to now Belgium and storied Anderlecht — where’s being coached by Vincent Kompany, which sounds promising, at least on paper.
The move to Belgium came amidst a most unprecedented time in football (and the world), but Miazga was dealing not only with the effects of the pandemic, but his own ankle injury as well, which basically cost him any chance (however slim) of a preseason with Chelsea — much to his frustration, as he revealed in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN this week.
“Well the summer was a bit frustrating because I got injured in my last game in Reading, which ended up being quite a serious ankle injury. I was out for about seven weeks, so that whole time I was just rehabbing at Chelsea and I wasn’t able to train because I was just trying to get it stronger and rest and recover.
“At the time there were a few options here and there — hearing things from my agents, hearing things from Chelsea — but my priority was getting healthy. Once I got healthy, that’s when more options started to roll in.
“I remember Anderlecht first spoke with me and my agents in early August, and then it kind of went quiet for a bit. Then more options were arising and they spoke with me again, and then there were just minor details for me to [decide on]. Then the window was coming coming to an end, so I had to make a decision, and I felt like Anderlecht was the right step. They wanted me and I wanted them. I know I can excel here.”
As with most Loan Army veterans, the question whether to continue with more loans or take the plunge on a more permanent transfer is one that has to be considered and considered carefully each and every transfer window.
But as we’ve seen with many others this summer, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive dampening effect on the market and (most) teams’ willingness to spend. So with two years still left on his Chelsea contract, Miazga wasn’t about to rush into anything drastic — though unlike several others in his situation, he did not sign a contract extension.
“Yeah, it was a consideration to get a permanent move, and there were options for permanent moves, but with this whole COVID situation and the market being what it was... There are a lot more details that go into a permanent [transfer], and at the time it just didn’t work out for whatever reason.
“But I spoke with the hierarchy at Chelsea, and they still believe in me. For me, last year was a bit of a disruption with a lot of injuries, so hopefully this year i can stay healthy and really prove myself as first-choice at a top club in a good league like Anderlecht, and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Realistically, the boat may have sailed some time ago on Miazga’s Chelsea career, though I suppose you never know in football.
And obviously, at the moment, the 25-year-old’s focus is fully on Anderlecht and getting them back to(wards) the top of the table. Belgium’s most successful club of all time missed out on European qualification for the second season in a row, finishing just 8th in a pandemic-shortened season, their worst since before the Second World War.
“My main focus is [here] and I’m fully invested in the project here and the team here, and I want to do my best for the club and for the staff and for my teammates. And I feel like if I do that, everything else will fall into place after.”
“My mentality is to to win at all costs here with this club and improve and try to help get them back to where they’re supposed to be: top of the table, winning titles, and playing Champions League. So I’ve just gotta take it day by day and work hard and be patient and be smart about it.”
-Matt Miazga; source: ESPN
Whether success at Anderlecht — off to a decent start with just 1 loss in 10 games (but also just 4 wins) — leads to chance back at Chelsea or the chance to transfer somewhere else, it sounds like Miazga’s going about things the right way. He made his debut for the club earlier this month, after the October international break, and has started both of their games since.
Good luck, Captain Miazgamerica!