Le50 2016: Neal Maupay – AS Saint-Etienne
It seems just like yesterday that Neal Maupay was a 16-year-old forward jumping onto the Ligue 1 stage, giving France fans a reason to get excited.
This is his fifth season as a Ligue 1 player, from his debut season for OGC Nice, playing nine games – just three starts – and scoring three goals, to this season, one full of frustration. It would be hard to write off the future of Maupay, but still only 19 years old, you have to hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sadly, and it doesn’t look like it will change this season, but the forward has yet to play over 1000 minutes in one season, and he still hasn’t better his total of just two goals since his debut campaign.
It took until the 33rd week of this current term for the youngster to find the back of the net. It would come against the weakest team in the league, but in scoring the 75th minute winner against Troyes, you could see what it meant to him – with club captain Loic Perrin the first man there to congratulate him on the strike.
Maupay has still only made a handful of starts under Christophe Galtier since his move from Nice last summer – he may have added two assists, but he would have wanted more and it will be expected to improve after the summer. A MCL knee ligament injury in 2013 saw him miss eight months of action, this season it has been purely down to form and better options in front of him.
There is no doubt that his stock has fallen dramatically since he first burst onto the scene, hence why Les Verts only had to pay €600,000 to secure his services. However, he has found himself initially behind Robert Beric and Nolan Roux and now Alexander Soderlund, but the 19-year-old is trying to find motivation in the struggle for minutes.
“I’m not complaining about my playing time, but it’s complicated and a bit frustrating. There is competition, but I’m learning every day. I’m only 19 years old and I have had the opportunity to play in the Europa League. This is important in my development, it takes time, but I feel good and I’m progressing.”
Maupay has not quite shown the same pace and sharpness since moving the the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, but that’s not to say he’s lost any of that explosiveness since the injury.
For Nice, he showed speed over short distances, using that to play off the shoulder of the last defender and gain a half yard – usually all he needed to add the finish
He is a striker that shows that less is more, something so uncommon with young modern day players. Not worried about taking the ball and beating a couple of players, usually it’s a case of getting the ball under control, one touch to get it out of his feet and then looks to get off a shot.
Quick thinking, intelligent movement and that ability to know where the goal is, everything you want from a goal-scorer. He has shown great footwork and dribbling skill when he receives the ball far away from the goal, but he definitely look more at ease inside the penalty area.
There is a feeling that Maupay is still dining off the excellent few goals he scored for Nice when he jumped onto the scene early in 2013 and that has to change sooner rather than later.
Saint-Etienne have been looking for a centre-forward ever since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left for Dortmund – it would be an amazing tale and exciting news for France if the teenager could finish the season strong and become the striking sensation he threatened to be before his knee injury.