Matt Miazga left New York Red Bulls for Chelsea in January 2016, reportedly commanding a $5 million transfer fee and instantly becoming the most powerful recruiting tool the RBNY Academy had at that time (the Academy’s pitch to prospects has since been further strengthened by Tyler Adams’ transfer to RB Leipzig).
Miazga picked up a couple of Premier League appearances with Chelsea at the back-end of the 2015-16 season, but he was loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse for the 2016-17 campaign. His prospects of ever returning to Chelsea appear to have diminished steadily, but there are plenty of players who have very productive and indeed auspicious careers in top-flight European soccer without ever playing for the Blues.
It seemed Miazga was laying down a marker for a career somewhere other than Chelsea with a strong two-year stint at Vitesse which saw him earn a place as a regular starter in Eredivisie and help the club to its first-ever KNVB Cup title. Having proven about as much as he could at Vitesse, Miazga was loaned Ligue 1’s Nantes for the 2018-19 season.
Per Franco Panizo’s reporting for ESPN FC back in September, Miazga chose to move to Nantes after careful consideration and research into the club. His decision and preparation were validated by a near-immediate place in the starting lineup - he started eight of Nantes’ first nine games of the new season. But results weren’t good and the coach who had been running the first team when Miazga moved to the club, Miguel Cardoso, was replaced by Vahid Halilhodzic. Miazga’s luck ran out in his eighth and, to date, last start for Nantes: a 3-0 loss to Bordeaux in which he did not play with his new coach looking on from the sidelines.
Halilihodzic has shown little inclination to pick Miazga since, and Nantes has lost just once in the eight games in all competitions it has played since the young American was dropped from the lineup. In early November, reports claimed Miazga had been “banished” to the reserves; by mid-November, it was being reported that Nantes was hoping to cut short the loan, but Chelsea was resisting. For his part, Miazga said he was focused on regaining his place, shrugging off suggestions he might be on the move again soon.
But those suggestions have returned. Reporting for 20minutes.fr, David Phelippeau advises there was indeed a delegation from Chelsea at Nantes last month. Quoting Chelsea’s Christophe Lollichon - part of the team that went to investigate Miazga’s situation - the report mixes praise for Miazga’s professionalism and attitude, but also notes “he’s not in a good situation”.
The report also provides confirmation from Lollichon that the terms of the loan do include a break clause, meaning an early exit is not contractually impossible. It is suggested that there is another meeting still to come to further address the question of whether Miazga stays or goes, but the headline of the piece makes the reporter’s opinion clear:
FC Nantes: Why Matt Miazga’s departure in January has become unavoidable
Miazga should have about 18 months left to run on his contract with Chelsea. If the club is going to sell him on to recoup at least some portion of what it has invested in him to date, then the summer before the last year of his contract would seem a prime time to do so.
But for the inconvenient fact that he’s out of favor and getting no playing time at all in Nantes, the perception might be that Miazga was progressing nicely toward a potential summer transfer. He has played more games for the US Men’s National Team in 2018 than ever before, and has been nominated for the 2018 US Male Player of the Year award. If he keeps his place with USMNT under new head coach Gregg Berhalter, he can expect to play at this summer’s 2019 Gold Cup - potentially a convenient showcase for his skills if he and Chelsea are quietly exploring his transfer options.
Whatever he and Chelsea think should happen next in his career, it’s not being helped by his current situation at Nantes. A January move to a club that will give him a fresh shot at playing time has seemed the most likely resolution for a while now.
In completely unrelated news, Toronto FC - a club with a proven interest in collecting USMNT players seeking to return to MLS from Europe and with a proven willingness to pay a premium for their services - recently traded up the MLS Allocation Order, thereby positioning itself to make a move for a potentially high-profile acquisition.