Ian Maatsen: Young Chelsea FC star overcame childhood heartbreak to make the grade at Burnley


Helsea young man Ian MaatsenThe desire to forge a successful football career is fueled by childhood angst.

The 20-year-old is enjoying a very productive season on loan in the Championship. Burnleyproviding plenty of goals and assists from the left flank while demonstrating a stern presence at defense in one of Europe’s toughest leagues.

Arguably, he is now at the front of the queue to get to the stamford bridge next season.

His time with Clarets boss Vincent Kompany is the latest step in Maatsen’s rise to prominence, following successful loan spells at Charlton and Coventry City.

However, it is never an easy road to the top and it was almost over before it started for the young Dutchman.

The young man during preseason training. / Chelsea F.C. via Getty Images

“After Feyenoord released me (at 11) I thought football was over,” Maatsen said. standard sport. “I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to be with my friends.

“I was young and they said I didn’t have the potential to do it professionally. I thought differently, obviously, but I took it to my chest and that would prove people wrong.

“I didn’t say it with my mouth but I kept it in my mind. I stayed humble, kept my head down and worked hard.”

It’s a remarkable admission from a player who has already accomplished so much even though he was barely out of his teens.

He won the European Under-17 Championship with the Netherlands, played for Chelsea Under-23 at just 16 years old and made his senior debut under Frank Lampard a year later.

Beneath all of that lies a young boy from the Dutch city of Vlaardingen who has been forced to grow up from a very young age.

“At Feyenoord, he was still a kid happily playing with his friends,” he added. “If he lost a game I didn’t care. I was just playing on the field to put my energy there.

“I got serious the day I was released. It was a dark moment for me. I was thinking that maybe football is not a happy life. I was there for six years.

“My family told me, ‘no, you have a God-given talent. You are very good’. They said that if you want to achieve it and realize your dream, go ahead. If not, then give that dream to someone else.

Chelsea was my first chance [to go to England] and I didn’t know if I would get another one.

“I was thinking about it and as soon as I asked myself the question I thought, ‘no, I’ve always wanted to be a footballer from a young age.’

“I decided that day that any chance I get, I’m going to take it 100 percent and train even harder than most people. If a player on my team throws 10 balls after practice, I’ll throw 20. I was building myself up with hunger in my body. That is what I have carried to this day.”

Maatsen has not been afraid to make big decisions. After Feyenoord, he joined Sparta Rotterdam and then another of the traditional ‘big three’ at PSV Eindhoven, a three-hour round trip from his family’s home.

Five years after being left without a club, Chelsea arrived. His mother didn’t want her to leave him and it was his father’s advice that made him jump.

“My brothers said about staying in my comfort zone or leaving,” explains Maatsen. “However, my mother was not happy about it and that was the hardest part, seeing that one of your parents is not behind this.

“My dad said, ‘Okay, if you go there, don’t joke around anymore, even if you are a child, you will come to a difficult world where it doesn’t matter how old you are. You just have to survive. My dad is a tough guy, he was in the army and he loves the challenges in life. He’s been through a lot with work and all that.

“I said to myself, ‘wow, my dream is to play in the Premier League’, Chelsea arrived and it was my first opportunity [to go to England] and who knows if he would get another. Sometimes the bus only goes by once and it’s all about whether you get on or let go.

“I said from day one when Chelsea wanted me: ‘I wanted to grab the opportunity with both hands and see where it goes’.”

Maatsen soon established himself in the Chelsea academy alongside players a few years older, making his first-team debut just over a year after joining. He fast-forward three years and the defender is a regular for Burnley, who are pursuing Kompany’s promotion.

The loan route is a familiar story for those looking to do the degree at Chelsea, and Maarsen sought advice from the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James and Conor Gallagher, who have successfully graduated from the program: “You talk to them in the fields. training because they have been in my situation too. Now they are like superstars.

“It is good to have the experience of colleagues who have been in the same situations. Show that if you go on loan and show that you can be a top player.

“But I always think realistically and don’t put too much pressure on myself. I don’t say: ‘I must be in the Chelsea squad at 21’. I do it my way to find my own way, so I don’t worry.”

His advice is simple: play as much as possible. With 85 senior games under his belt already, Maatsen can’t be accused of not checking that box.

“I didn’t hesitate to wait in the transfer window, I said I wanted to go out on another loan,” he added. “I wanted to prove during my spell that I am ready for the next step next season, which is why I chose Burnley. I thought the faster I move, then I can apply to start this season. It was the perfect combination.” .

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