After two years proving himself in Vitesse, Matt Miazga has taken a step up in joining France’s FC Nantes. It’s a move that makes sense, and one that provides what appears to be a good fit for a player that is in need of a new level of competition.
No matter which way you look at it, Miazga’s stint with Vitesse was a resounding success. The two years in the Netherlands acclimated Miazga to a new level of soccer and, with it, turned him into a much better player. The club experienced unprecedented levels of success thanks in part to Miazga’s consistent role with the team and the player grew from playing in one of the world’s more attacking leagues. Win-win.
The move to Ligue 1, then, is a necessary step up, one with several intriguing aspects to it as Miazga looks to grow even more with both club and country.
Starting with the obvious, it’s not crazy to say that Ligue 1 is a big leap from the Eredivisie. Sure, the Dutch league has strong, young talent and it’s a league that certainly remains a premier attacking destination. But the opportunity to face players like Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Kylian Mbappe, Dimitri Payet, Nabil Fekir and Florian Thauvin on a weekly basis will only make a defender strong.
The French league has developed a reputation as being top-heavy thanks to the dominance of Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, but a quick look at France’s World Cup-winning roster reveals nine players from the domestic league with four different clubs represented. Meanwhile, 40 additional Ligue 1 players represented other nations at this summer’s World Cup.
Now, where does Miazga fit? Nantes is a midtable team that has its share of defenders ready to compete with the young American. Veteran Nicholas Pallois leads the way within the team’s central defenders while Diego Carlos and Koffi Djidji also figure to compete for minutes. The team’s lone World Cup representative, Chidozie Awaziem, left the club after joining Nigeria this summer, and it appears Miazga will slide in to that central defensive mix in his place.
For Miazga, Nantes is a club that provides that competition necessary to further his career. He’d maxed out at Vitesse, becoming one of the Eredivisie’s better defenders during his two-year stint. He’ll face bigger challenges, both internally and on the field, in Ligue 1. Those challenges will be good for his growth as he looks to become the defensive stalwart of the USMNT.
Meanwhile, Nantes gets a strong, young defender as they look to make a leap themselves. New manager Miguel Cardoso will bring his own style and philosophies to the group, one that is looking to build on a midtable finish last season. The club itself has had a good relationship with American players, as evidenced by the way the fans embraced Alejandro Bedoya and the “I Believe” chant during the midfielder’s stay with the club.
And what about Chelsea? The Premier League giant has made a policy out of casting a big net when it comes to young signings and figuring it out as they go. Star signings are given a chance after a slew of loan moves while others are moved on, most likely for a profit. There is the option to buy Miazga at the end of this deal but, with Chelsea’s history in mind, it likely isn’t on the cheaper side. The move gives Chelsea a better look at Miazga’s true level while developing in a bigger league that could help inflate his price should that time come.
Moves likes this were what Miazga must have had in mind when the move to Chelsea came. It’s much easier to fall down that ladder and find your level than it is to work your way up from the lower leagues. The road to Chelsea at the top of that ladder may never come into picture, but Miazga has already climbed a rung or two with his move to Nantes.
It’s a move that, in a years time, will show something about a player still looking to find his level as he makes his push up towards the higher levels of club soccer.