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Exclusive Interview: Neal Maupay

Neal Maupay is no stranger to the spotlight. Having made a name for himself in the Premier League, he is turning his attention to fashion and is right at home with a camera crew in his peripheral and luxury clothing on his back.

In this latest exclusive collaboration, Neal is seen in a new light, wearing high-end streetwear brands Represent Clo, Harmonious Society, Naked Wolfe, and jewellery from CRAFTD London – esteemed partners of Sports World.

Born in Versailles in 1996, Neal moved to the Côte d’Azur aged five before joining Nice Academy in 2007 where he impressed hugely, breaking into the first team as a young teenager. His journey has been a testament to perseverance and relentless spirit — qualities that have endeared him to fans and made him a formidable opponent on the pitch. There are not many footballers in the Premier League who would like to see Maupay on the other side of the white line.

His potential was evident early in his career, with sharp instincts and a natural flair for finding the back of the net. At just 16 years of age, he made his first-team debut for Nice — an experience that, admittedly, he wasn’t ready for.

“It was crazy at the time because it all happened so quickly, that I wasn’t prepared for it,” he says. “I was just a normal kid going to school and training — I didn’t plan on becoming a professional footballer. I knew I was good, but at the time I was focused on having fun and enjoying life.

“I received a call out of the blue one day while I was at school. I was pulled out of class and told that I needed to train with the first team because I was in the squad for the game tomorrow. After that game, I trained every day with the first team and signed my first professional contract.

“Everything changed so quickly after that. There’s a lot of stuff that I wish I knew at the time, but when you’re 16 years old, you have a lot to learn. Looking back, it was a great experience. I’m proud of how I managed everything, and obviously, there are things that I could have done better and things that the club could have helped me with. But at the time, it was pretty rare for such a young player to break through in the first team.”

For any young striker, certain milestones outweigh others. Scoring your first goal as a senior professional can be the catalyst that kickstarts a career. For Neal, that was the exact case – a last minute winner in front of his whole family for his hometown club, which paved the way for a career with countless goals and admirers from some of the world’s biggest clubs. But of all the goals he’s scored since, nothing will ever compare to the feeling of his first.

“It was something that I can’t even describe and a moment that I will remember forever,” he says. “It was in Nice, my hometown, in front of our fans, my family, and friends. It was a last-minute winner, something I had never experienced before, and I don’t think I ever will again.

“It was such a proud moment for me and my family. I remember leaving the ground with my mum, and all the fans surrounding me. I was like, ‘what is going on?’ Three months ago, no one knew me. I was just playing football for fun, and now I was the youngest goal scorer in the French league.”

Consistency and class are two parallels that require a certain level of mindfulness to achieve. Especially in the modern game of elite football where demands are growing by the seasons, players must make time to work on their mental wellbeing to stay ahead of the pace and retain composure and focus in the pressure moments. Be it board games or yoga, many footballers have developed deeper interests in pursuits off the field, and Neal is no different.

He has become renowned for his love of literature. It’s a trait he might not share with many fellow professionals, but one he has become reliant on as part of his pre-match routine.

“Reading before a game is a part of my routine that started when I was playing in France,” he says. “You arrive at the stadium a few hours before kick-off and there’s an hour or so before starting the warm-up. That felt like a long time when I was younger and I didn’t know how to prepare for the game.

“I had a lot of thoughts in my head about how I would play that night, the things I needed to do, and how the game might go, so my head was everywhere. I tried to listen to music and watch a movie, but that didn’t help me, so I tried reading a book and I got really into it.

“I felt like I could focus on one thing and not allow anything else to come into my head so that’s how it started. It’s been a part of my routine for 10 years now. I read on a daily basis, but I’ve got one book for the game that I only read on matchday and when that’s finished, I start a new one.”

Neal’s relentless attitude toward football and life defines him. He is constantly striving to improve both on and off the pitch, determined to continue succeeding as he moves into the zenith of his career in the Premier League.

“I think I can improve as a player, but as a person, I always want to grow and be better,” he says. “I’m trying to develop myself and continue playing at the highest level for a few more years. I hope to have a long life and be the best version of myself on and off the pitch.”

As a footballer, his ambition cannot be faulted, nor can his drive to achieve more success in his career. Off the pitch, Neal has become known for his humility and dedication. Despite the pressure and intensity of professional football, he remains grounded, attributing much of his success to the support of his teammates and coaching staff. Something that might help him in his pursuit of greatness is his fervent love of sport, spending his weekends watching everything from tennis to basketball and Formula One across multiple devices including his iPad, TV and laptop. It’s this obsession that often drives an athlete forward in their career, with an acute awareness of the highs and lows of professional sport, and the determination needed to improve and adapt.

There’s no avoiding the hardships and setbacks Maupay has had to endure throughout his career. Neal, however, sees those setbacks not as obstacles but as opportunities he welcomed to ‘bounce back’.

“I live by the quote, ‘fall seven times, get up eight'”

“I live by the quote, ‘fall seven times, get up eight,” says Neal. “In my career and my life, I’ve had many setbacks and a lot of tough periods but somehow I always find a way to bounce back. That’s why that quote is so important to me.

“In life and football, I know there will be more setbacks and difficulties, but the most important thing is to overcome them. I’ve had injuries, problems finding a club, being on the bench, but I always find a way to get back on track.”

These words encapsulate Neal’s relentless spirit and sense of purpose. His career has been a testament to the adage he lives by, reflecting his ability to rise above challenges that would derail others. Despite the hurdles he has had to overcome, his resilience and commitment to his goals have seen him return stronger each time, cementing his reputation.

For now, Neal’s sights are set firmly on his footballing career. At 27, he is in his prime, eager to make the most of his abilities and continue competing at the highest levels.

“I haven’t thought too much about life after football,” he says. “Sometimes I think about it, but I’m only 27 and still want to play and compete at the highest level for a few years. At the moment, I am focused on being the best footballer I can be and the best version of myself on and off the pitch.

“Eventually it will come to an end and I’m not sure what my path will be. I always follow my heart and I feel like I will know at the time what I want to do next, but I haven’t found it yet.”


Shot by Sophia Carey
Styled by Annabel Webster

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