Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira has admitted that Jean-Philippe Mateta is making it “really difficult” for him when selecting which forward to start with due to his recent performances.
Mateta, who is a year into his 18-month loan from German side Mainz, scored the winner in last Saturday’s 2-1 away win against South London rivals Millwall in the third round of the FA Cup.
There were reports that French side Saint-Etienne were looking to end Mateta’s stay at Selhurst Park early and bring him to Ligue 1. However, it was suggested that Palace wanted to bring in another forward before allowing Mateta to depart.
When asked if Mateta had won him over with his recent performances, Vieira said: “It’s been really challenging for him because since he has been at this football club, he’s not had many chances to play.
“Since I arrived, with Christian Benteke [already here] and Odsonne Edouard arriving, he’s had less time. But every time the club and the team needed him to perform, he gave his best, and he was rewarded with a couple of goals that he scored.
“He is a part of the squad, and he is available such as everybody else. Then I have to make a decision, but he is working well every single day and is making it really difficult for me to choose the forward players.”
The Eagles will have to pay Mainz a fee in the region of £15million if Mateta starts a certain number of matches.
Prior to the 3-0 defeat away at Spurs on Boxing Day, Mateta had only featured for four minutes – the 1-1 draw at home against Newcastle United – in the Premier League under Vieira since the opening day defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
The 24-year-old has featured in the last four games and scored in the 3-0 home win against bottom of the table Norwich City.
Speaking on what Mateta has done to get back into his plans, Vieira said: “Physically, he needed to get back to his best.
“There are still a couple of steps to go, but to go through those steps, you need to play games.
“At the moment, he hasn’t played a lot because I chose other players. But he has to be patient and wait for his time to play games.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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