Brighton & Hove Albion have today (4th August) completed the signing Aleš Matějů from Viktoria Plzeň on a three-year deal. According to previous reports, the fee for the Czech Republic Under-21 international is believed to be in the region of £2.25m.
Since news about a potential transfer broke last week, Matějů, 21, has been conspicuous by his absence from the Viktoria Plzeň, with club management keeping tight-lipped on the status of their promising right-back. Indeed, even with the club suffering from something of a defensive crisis, Matějů was an unused substitute for Plzeň’s Champions League qualifier against FCSB in Romania, and was absent completely for the return leg and Viktoria’s domestic opener against Dukla Prague.
The versatile full-back broke through at Příbram before transferring to Viktoria Plzeň in 2015, with whom he has won the Czech League title and played in both the Champions and Europa League competitions. Before becoming a regular at senior level, Matějů also spent a year training at PSV Eindhoven’s youth academy before returning back to his native country.
Speaking to Brighton & Hove Albion’s website, manager Chris Hughton said about the youngster: “He has good experience for his age and the stage of his career he is at; we are delighted to welcome him to the club.”
Hughton also discussed what the immediate plan is for Matějů. Although it seems that the door is potentially open to joining the first-team straight away, it appears that a loan spell may be arranged.
“Initially we will monitor his progress in training over the coming weeks, and then make a decision in terms of what is best for Aleš’ development,” Hughton said, before adding: “And one of the options might be for him to go on loan in order to continue playing regular senior football.”
So, what’s he like?
Twelve months ago, there was no doubting Aleš Matějů’s stature as the most promising player currently plying their trade in the Czech Republic. After joining Viktoria Plzeň, he had ousted senior international František Rajtoral from the side and had made the right-back role his own. For all his achievements, he remained somewhat underappreciated in his home country, despite playing regularly for the league champions and putting in a string of impressive performances. The meteoric rise of Patrik Schick didn’t help and, perhaps, neither did his role as an unglamorous full-back.
In an age where full-backs are expected to perform a dual role, that of providing both defensive cover and attacking threat at the same time, Matějů goes against the grain somewhat. The 21-year-old has not been a regular force in the final third, despite being able to put in a shift more akin to a box-to-box midfielder than a traditional right-back. In fact, he has only scored once and registered a handful of assists during his three season stint in the Czech top flight.
However, those kinds of statistics only tell half of the story. Whilst not being as attack-minded as his now former teammates, he often provided a base to launch counter attacks and performed key defensive responsibilities when David Limberský decided to relentlessly bomb up and down the left flank. Indeed, his intelligence as a footballer was often present when Plzeň were at their worst. Even in collective horror shows against Dinamo Minsk, Villarreal and Ludogorets on the European stage, he managed to improve his reputation and come out of such games relatively unscathed.
Admittedly, the last twelve months have not been positive. He has lost his place in the Plzeň side and at times he has looked rather disinterested and listless. Though whilst by no means a positive trait, there has been a fair amount of managerial flux at the Doosan Arena recently and he hasn’t been the only member of the Plzeň squad to act in such a manner. And, it didn’t impact his status with Vítězslav Lavička who clearly saw him as an integral part of his Czech Under-21 side throughout the qualifying process for the 2017 European Championships.
Unfortunately, an injury picked up towards the end of last season forced the 21-year-old to miss the tournament.
There is no reason as to why Aleš Matějů cannot push his way into first-team thinking at Brighton relatively quickly. By no means a world-beater, Matějů is a capable right-back who can make the leap up to the Premier League, especially at a club that has the long-term approach to development that the Seagulls possess. That said, Hughton’s remarks about a loan deal do make sense. Matějů can get adapt to a new country, culture and playing style and join Brighton’s first-team either in January (or at the start of next season) and challenge the likes of Bruno and Liam Rosenior, both of who are over thirty.
As noted, he’s clearly been signed with the future in mind.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 4th August 2017