Le50 2017 – Neal Maupay
Debuting in Ligue 1 at just 16 years old, Neal Maupay was always regarded as having the potential of being one of France’s next great strikers. Year after year, however, his chances of living up to his promise diminish. The young forward left his youth club OGC Nice in 2015 for AS Saint-Etienne after a lack of playing time and zero confidence from the coach convinced him he needed a new team. That season, however, was underwhelming to say the least – Maupay made just 23 appearances and scored only three goals for a Saint-Etienne side that featured in four tournaments, including the Europa League. After discussions with Christophe Galtier, Maupay agreed to a season-long loan deal with Ligue 2 side Stade Brestois for 2016/17. Maupay spoke widely about his decision, stating that he was looking for a club that would help him grow as a player, provide him with ample playing time, and would trust his role within the team.
While the media initially portrayed his loan as a step down in his career, it seems that such a move was the best thing for the 20-year-old. Arriving at the club just one week prior to the start of the season, Maupay showed no signs of growing pains, starting off strongly with goals in six of the first 10 matches. With a final tally of 11 goals in 28 appearances across the whole season, we were reminded of Maupay’s scoring ability, and given a chance to see just what he can do when provided with confidence and playing time. Also, that was despite a knee injury which kept him sidelined for most of the second half of the season, as he scored only one goal after January.
Quick and efficient, Maupay’s skill in the box has always been one of his greatest assets. While on the smaller side for a forward, Maupay’s greatest strength has always been his ability to read the game. He may not have the physical strength to out-power his defenders, but his no-nonsense style of play highlights his reliability for moving forward and creating chances in the final third.
Brest were unlucky to not finish in the top 3 and gain promotion on the final, dramatic, day of Ligue 2, but Maupay’s season should be regarded as a success. It allowed him to regain his confidence, remind everyone of his skill and ability on the ball, and build the case why he should not be disregarded in the future. Prior to the exciting climax of the season, Maupay expressed his desire to stay at Brest should the team be promoted to Ligue 1. The team was quite reliant on his skills, struggling to maintain their place at the top of the table and consistently to score goals after Maupay’s injury in January.
While it is unclear whether he will return to Saint-Etienne, his performances this season could be the impetus to a fresh start in Ligue 1. Les Verts disappointed this season with an eighth-place finish in Ligue 1 and a Round of 32 exit from the Europa League. With Christophe Galtier also ending his tenure at the club, and the team continuing to struggle to find reliable and consistent forwards, Maupay could find his way back into Les Verts’s starting line-up. If he plays his cards right, this could be Maupay’s summer to catapult himself back into Ligue 1.