Playing in midfield alongside Youssouf Fofana in his last two games with AS Monaco, this young, talented Belgian midfielder spoke to Monaco Tribune and Radio Monaco on Wednesday.
A rising talent, born in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, a town next to Brussels, Eliot Matazo has progressed from captain of the Belgian U16 team to playing midfield with AS Monaco. This season he has even won over the team’s coach, Niko Kovac, who made the young star his main alternative to the irreplaceable duo Tchouaméni-Fofana. Taken under their wing, he considers these two players to be his “big brothers”. However, they are not the only ones watching out for the midfielder, as Cesc Fabregas made sure to pop his head into the press room, checking he was all set for his first interview. Eliot Matazo is for sure in safe hands and ready to show his potential on the pitch.
Eliot, what do you make of the faith that the team and Niko Kovac have in you?
It makes me so happy. I’m a young player. I learn a lot by training with my team mates. I’m pleased to see my work was rewarded by getting to play in the past two games. I train hard every day to get this type of opportunity.
We want to compete in the European Championship
What do you make of your last two performances?
My main focus was just to live in the present moment and enjoy it without worrying too much. Confidence came later. I’m satisfied with my performances, and it’s obviously always better when you make decisive moves for the team, as was the case in Saturday’s match against Metz when I made a decisive pass. In the French Cup, it was trickier. It’s unusual to have two matches against the same opponent. But the main thing was that we qualified for the next round.
Jus seven games away from the end of the championship, Monaco is in third place. Is the title, or rather a place in the Champions League, the aim now?
Our aim hasn’t changed since the start of the season. We want to compete in the European Championship. If we finish higher than fourth place, then that will just be a bonus. There are still a lot of points to be given out. Overtaking Lyon means nothing. We’ll do the maths at the end.
Why did you choose to join AS Monaco?
When I was 16, foreign clubs were interested in me, and one of them was Monaco. The club convinced me straight away with their words and sporting project. Leaving Anderlecht, the club I played with since I was little, wasn’t easy. But Monaco is a historic club, one that has seen a lot of young players go on to show their potential to the whole of Europe.
Going from Anderlecht’s training centre to Monaco’s. There is no better training opportunity for a young player…
(Smiling) It’s true that Anderlecht’s training centre is considered as one of the best in Europe, as is Monaco’s. It was in Monaco though that I matured. When I got here, I joined the National 2 team straight away. Mentally, it really shaped me, because players are physically much fitter than in the younger teams.
Niko Kovac does not hesitate to put his faith in the younger players. Does that motivate you?
Of course. It’s obvious in training, when all the players are putting in 100%. The coach sees everything and is quick to reward our efforts. For us, young players are very important.
How did you end up in football?
I started playing in my local area. Everybody said I played well. The older players went to see my mum and told her my potential shouldn’t go to waste, that I should sign up to a club. The coach in my town signed me up to a training course over Easter. I didn’t know that there were scouts there from Anderlecht. At the end of the tournament, they came to see me. And at eight years old, I joined the club.
Growing up, did you have a role model?
I looked up to all the big players. I’ve always played in midfield, so I watched all the players in the same position as me. I’m obsessed with the game, at home, I watch all the matches. If you come round to my house, the TV screen is always green. My mum is always complaining about it (laughter).
Apart from football, what else do you like to do?
I’m a very relaxed, chilled person and I don’t tend to go out much. I enjoy reading. Books about sport or biographies. I like to learn new things every day.
In the locker room, they call you “Rio”, after Rio Mavuba. People compare you to Claude Makélélé. Does this flatter you?
(Smilling) Of course it does! These are two great players, both with incredible careers. I really like being compared to them. I have a lot of work still to do though if I’m to play like they do.
Of all the people you have around you, who are the most important?
My mum. Ever since I was little, she’s always pushed me. Right from the start, she’s always been there at all my training sessions and tournaments. She’s supported me and she’s the person I speak to the most. I often ask for her advice. She’s up to speed with everything and watches all my matches.
The coach is close to us, he chats to us often, especially to us, the youngsters
And what about Cesc Fabregas?
With a player like Cesc, you don’t need to talk. When you watch him in training, you can feel everything he’s gone through. Just watching him is enough. By watching him you can take away everything there is to learn from him.
What goals have you set for yourself?
I try to get as much playing time as possible, whilst making sure to enjoy it and always giving 100% in training. I want to set myself up for opportunities whenever I can.
The coach seems to have a caring attitude towards you. Can you tell us about Kovac’s approach?
The coach is close to us, he chats to us often, especially to us, the youngsters. He gives us advice based on his own experiences as a football player. He played midfield so that’s a huge advantage for us. The coach is also very rigourous. He makes us practise discipline. For us, the younger players, it’s really important to do that.
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