Newcomer Eliot Matazo not immediately fit at Antwerp: “We took that risk”

Newcomer Eliot Matazo not immediately fit at Antwerp: “We took that risk”
Newcomer Eliot Matazo not immediately fit at Antwerp: “We took that risk”

Mark van Bommel simply remains T1 of Antwerp. In a playful announcement video about the transfer of his eldest son Thomas to Sporting Hasselt – the club of media figures Sam Kerkhofs and Rik Verheye – senior Van Bommel played a leading role on Thursday.

For a moment it seemed that the 46-year-old former midfielder would put on his football boots again. “I went to Sporting Hasselt, that would have been something,” Van Bommel laughed about it a day later. “My voice – which was simulated using AI technology – wasn’t quite right, but it was nicely done. Punish what is possible today.”

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While Van Bommel’s son Patro traded Eisden for Sporting Hasselt, the Antwerp coach received the desired reinforcement for his midfield in Eliot Matazo. “I have read a lot of good things about him from you. I myself have seen images of his international matches with the Young Devils in November. His profile suits our team, but do not compare him with Arthur (Vermeeren, ed.). Although he can play in that position.”

Van Bommel confirmed that Matazo cannot yet be used against Club Brugge. “Playing next week – for the cup in Ostend (08/02) and away at RWDM (11/02) – will also be difficult,” the Dutchman said. “The medical staff is trying to get him on the field as quickly as possible.”

Matazo returns from a muscle injury that kept him out for a month and a half. Before that, he did not get further than a few substitute appearances at his parent club AS Monaco, accounting for 96 playing minutes in total. Isn’t it a risk to bring him in? “He is not fit in the short term. We took that risk,” Van Bommel agreed. “On the other hand, I would not call this transfer an emergency solution. We didn’t take him because we had to take someone.”

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In addition to Matazo, the names of the more experienced Dennis Praet (29) and Razvan Marin (27) were also linked to Antwerp. “Many names have indeed been discussed. For me it doesn’t matter how old a player is. Whoever is good will just play. And I like working with young players. That’s how we ended up with erm… Eli or Mata. What should I call him? I’ll find a nickname again.” (laugh)

Does Van Bommel look back on the winter mercato with satisfaction? “Should I be satisfied?” he shot back the question. “Sammy Vines (Colorado, United States) is gone, just like Ortwin De Wolf (Zulte Waregem). And of course not to forget Arthur (Atlético Madrid).”

“We have a very young team and the bench is even younger. Once again we have to rely on the team. We didn’t play top at Standard, but we did fight together to get the three-pointer.”

Mark van Bommel greets his colleague Ivan Leko warmly.

Mark van Bommel greets his colleague Ivan Leko warmly. — © Isosport

Van Bommel stated that the infirmary, with Engels, De Laet, Coulibaly, Balikwisha and Valencia, remains unchanged. Keita is suspended against Club, while Janssen returns from suspension. Yusuf is still in the Africa Cup with Nigeria. “We will continue to ‘gather’ until the start of the play-offs, hoping to be able to look up and no longer down. The connection with the fans was already there, but I think we will need them more than in the past year and a half to get into the top six.”

Our in-house analyst Patrick Goots rightly noted this week that, although things are a bit less this season, Antwerp can draw level with Club, Union’s challenger, with a win on Sunday. Van Bommel: “Do you remember what I said at the beginning of the season? Anyone can beat anyone. That remains the case. Union is a little further away. Everything else remains compact, due to transfers, the Africa Cup, the Asian Cup, and so on. The results are variable.”

The man to keep an eye on on Sunday will be Igor Thiago, who has already scored sixteen times in our top flight this season. How on earth do you stop the Brazilian goal machine? “By playing with two central defenders,” Van Bommel grinned. “No, Thiago is a striker who scores easily, is tall and has strong header. You have to stop him as a team: on the one hand, cut off the supply, and on the other hand, defend well in the box.”

© Isosport

“Club has an excellent, experienced selection. If you see what they have on the field, they owe it to their position to compete for the national title. We, on the other hand, are trying to catch up after a unique year.”

Van Bommel looks at the current season with a realistic view. “Our best player has left with Arthur, we have some long-term injuries and our run away from home (13 out of 36, ed.) is not good enough. Just analyze it…” Does Van Bommel adjust his ambition for the rest of the season? “No, our ambition last year was to reach the top four. Now that’s the top six. A lot is possible in ten matches thanks to halving the points, but we should not think that we will just play for the championship.”

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