BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace’s scouting of Jean-Philippe Mateta was so rigorous that they watched the striker’s training sessions at Mainz, head coach Roy Hodgson has revealed.
Mateta signed on an initial 18-month loan, although there is a clause to make the deal permanent once certain criteria are met.
The deal was unlikely only until recently, with Palace put off by the Bundesliga club’s valuation. However, Mainz’s poor form and their financial position meant that the South Londoners were able to pursue the 23-year-old this month. The club confirmed his arrival on Thursday.
The South London Press asked Hodgson how long Mateta had been on the club’s radar.
“It was a year and-a-half. It was not last summer but the summer before when we were thinking about potential strikers,” the Palace boss said.
“Doug Freedman (the club’s sporting director) and his scouting staff had worked hard to come up with some names that they thought fitted the profile of the right sort of guys that we were looking for. He certainly was one of those.
“Since that time, Doug has followed him closely – even to the extent of making certain that he got people looking in on training sessions when they had a training camp. We think we know him quite well.
“We certainly have been interested in him for a long period of time, but the last time we discussed his name the price was quite high and the club decided that we were not able to pay it. That passed and he stayed at Mainz.
“What we were then being told is that Mainz are having a few difficulties in the Bundesliga, and even financially they are looking to improve their status. But you would have to speak to the people at Mainz to find out a full story.
“I’m always a little bit wary of the stories people give for their decisions. I’m just happy that they have made a decision for him to go out on loan for 18 months with an option to buy, and we have been the ones to seize on that option.”
Visa issues are set to keep Mateta waiting for his debut.
Hodgson confirmed that the striker – who had scored 10 goals in 17 appearances for Mainz before moving to Selhurst Park – will miss Tuesday’s game against West Ham United.
The former England head coach said: “It’s too early [for him to play against West Ham], we have a few visa problems to sort out but hopefully we can sort those out very quickly and he will be available very soon.
“But it would have been too soon to put him into the squad for tomorrow whatever.”
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