Olympique Lyonnais signed the thirty-year-old Angolan defender Clinton Mata from Club Brugge for €5 million in the summer of 2023. It was a first move abroad for the right-back, who had been born and raised in Belgium and had spent the entirety of his career thus far playing in the Belgian league system.
Mata will compete with the youngster Saël Kumbedi for playing time on the right side of Lyon’s defence and will provide the experienced option that the club has lacked in that role in recent times. He’s less attack minded than Kumbedi and will be useful when the team requires a more defensive set-up.
Clinton Mata spent five very successful seasons with Club Brugge, following his transfer there from Charleroi for €1.5 million in 2018. They were First Division runners-up in his first season at the club, before winning the title three times in a row from 2020 to 2022. He also played in their Super Cup winning teams in 2021 and 2022 and the Belgian Cup final in 2020, which they lost 1-0 to Antwerp.
In total, Mata made almost 200 appearances for Club Brugge, including twenty-three in the UEFA Champions League, and scored six goals in all competitions. His most important strike came in the 2021 Super Cup, when he scored what turned out to be the winner in a 3-2 victory over Genk.
Mata began his professional career at KAS Eupen, playing in the Challenger Pro League, the second tier of Belgian football. His three years there were relatively successful, finishing second twice in the regular season table and just missing out on promotion via the play-offs in his last hurrah with the club, before moving on to Charleroi on a free transfer in July 2014.
Three seasons in the Jupiler Pro League with Charleroi saw Mata establish his reputation as a solid top-flight performer. He made 87 appearances for The Zebras as they finished 6th, 8th and then 6th again before a loan move to Genk for the 2017-18 season.
The highlight of Mata’s brief stop at Genk was their run to the Belgian Cup final, the first major final of his career. He played the full ninety minutes plus extra time at the Stade Roi Baudouin but unfortunately Genk lost out 1-0 to Standard Liège. Genk finished fifth in the regular season table and Mata was able to help them qualify for the UEFA Europa League via the play-offs before moving on to Brugge.
Difficult start to Lyon career
Erstwhile Lyon manager Laurent Blanc placed his confidence in new signing Clinton Mata for the opening game of the 2023-24 Ligue 1 season away at Strasbourg, selecting him at right-back. However, Mata suffered a dead leg only twenty minutes into his debut and was forced off, to be replaced by Kumbedi in a disappointing 2-1 defeat.
He missed the next game through injury and was on the bench for the following match before regaining a starting place at right-back for the visit of Paris Saint-Germain in week four. The 4-1 defeat was a humiliation for Lyon and saw Blanc dismissed as manager soon after. Mata was moved to centre-back for the two subsequent fixtures due to an injury crisis and performed competently in the role but will likely revert to the full-back position when other players return to fitness.
Yes, he is named after Bill Clinton
Clinton Mata was born in Belgium to parents of Angolan and Congolese heritage. His birth date, the 7th of November 1992, was just three days after Bill Clinton was declared winner of the 1992 American presidential election to earn his first term as President of the USA. Mata Snr was passionate about politics and decided to bestow the name of the 42nd president upon his new-born son.
It proved to be an auspicious decision as young Clinton inherited his father’s interest in politics and, aged just nineteen, was listed as a candidate for the Parti Socialiste (PS) in the commune of Herve for the local elections in 2012. Ultimately he withdrew his candidature under pressure from his club, KAS Eupen, but maybe it’s something he will return to once he retires from football.
Clinton Mata also followed in his father’s footsteps when it came to choosing his international allegiance. Qualified to represent either his native Belgium or Angola, Mata Jnr opted for the latter. His father had reputedly been an accomplished goalkeeper who was involved in the Angola national team setup during his own playing days.
Mata received his first call-up for the Palancas Negras from coach Romeu Filemon in September 2014 and made his debut in a 0-3 home defeat against Burkina Faso in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, during which he was substituted at half time with the score at 0-1. He made seven further appearances for Angola over the following two years, but has not been called back into the squad since June 2016.