Mainz forward Jean-Philippe Mateta has what it takes to challenge Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski as the Bundesliga’s most fearsome striker in the near future, according to 05ers assistant coach Michael Thurk.
Having scored 22 goals in 81 Bundesliga games for Mainz in the 2000s, Thurk knows all about what it takes to succeed in Germany's top flight - and he also struck 13 times as part of the side that earned the club its first-ever promotion under Jürgen Klopp back in 2004.
Although Thurk admits that the best striker in the Bundesliga at present is "still Robert Lewandowski", the 43-year-old nevertheless believes that the Pole "will be overtaken in the next couple of years", by Mainz's talented 22-year-old. The fact that Lewandowski is nine years older by comparison isn’t the only reason Thurk is backing Mateta for big things.
"I would wish for Jean-Philippe to do it as soon as possible because he has huge potential," Thurk told kicker.
"You can't take it for granted that a young player will come from France’s second tier and score 14 goals in the Bundesliga. And he did that. Not for Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, but for Mainz, which means it's even more impressive."
Watch: Mateta's hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of Freiburg in 2018/19
Given that prolific goalscorers have been hard come for Mainz in the 14 years they've spent in the Bundesliga, sporting director Rouven Schröder struck gold in signing Mateta from Lyon after his year-long loan at Le Havre in Ligue 2.
Making a club-record signing was a gamble, but one which paid off as, come the campaign's conclusion, the Frenchman had played a pivotal role in securing survival and finished a goal shy of equalling a club record.
Andre Schürrle and Shinji Okazaki remain the only players to have hit the 15-goal mark in Germany's top tier for the Karnevalsverein. If Thurk's prediction is to be believed though, that could well change in the near future as Mateta challenges four-time Torjägerkanone winner Lewandowski for his crown.