Matz Sels ‘Arguably the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1’ signs new deal
Rafa Benitez stunned everybody when buying Matz Sels.
Rafa’s initial 10 game contract had ended and the inevitable relegation happened, Mike Ashley waiting far too long to ditch Steve McClaren.
The Spaniard knowing he faced a massive job of turning around the club as the rats (Sissoko, Townsend, Janmaat, Wijnaldum etc) deserted the sinking ship, plus Rafa Benitez cleared out a multitude of players who weren’t good enough.
So when his first signing was 24 year old Matz Sels from Gent, fans were puzzled to say the least.
Goalkeeper looked easily the strongest department, with Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot surely well capable in the Championship and Tim Krul working his way back to full fitness.
Matz Sels began the season as the number one but his Newcastle career was just about over before it started, he played the first nine games before being dropped after a mistake at Villa handed a last minute equaliser to the opposition.
Very quickly he went from winning the league in Belgium and playing Champions League football (and in the Belgium squad), to very quickly not making the bench even in the English second tier. Once both Darlow and Elliot were fully fit and available, after the 1 February 2016 the Belgian keeper didn’t even make the bench again.
After a loan season at Anderlecht, Matz Sels then joined French club Strasbourg in summer 2018.
Getting rave reviews and his confidence back, only three clubs outside the top four conceded less goals than Matz Sels and Strasbourg.
On Friday, after just over a year at the club, Strasbourg have now managed to tie the Belgian keeper down to a new extended contract up to summer 2024.
Robert Bairner is a Ligue 1 journalist and commenting on the contract extension said: ‘Ex-Newcastle keeper Matz Sels has been arguably the best keeper in Ligue 1 this season with Strasbourg. Rewarded with a contract extension.’
Matz Sels won the fans player of the year award last season and speaking to L’Equipe this week, when reflecting on his 2016 move to Newcastle, the goalkeeper declared; ‘I don’t like talking about myself too much…It wasn’t good for me but I learned. Maybe I wasn’t ready – and not just mentally.’
When playing for Newcastle, despite his stature he had a real problem dealing with balls into the box.
The ironic thing is that if Newcastle had been a Premier League club rather than Championship one at the time, Rafa Benitez may well have given Matz Sels time to adapt before putting him in the first team.
In his time at Newcastle, Rafa Benitez signed two goalkeepers.
As we know, Martin Dubravka is excellent and set to start his 59th Premier League game in a row today at Chelsea.
However, maybe the other one he signed was also pretty good, just a case of wrong time, wrong place.
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