Rabbi Matondo: Schalke 04 winger aims to make Wales proud

Rabbi Matondo
Rabbi Matondo has been compared to Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, who made the opposite move to him when he left Schalke 04 for the Etihad Stadium in 2016
Uefa Euro 2020 qualifier: Slovakia v Wales
Venue: Anton Malatinský Stadium, Trnava Date: Thursday, 10 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Whether on the football field, in the classroom or the kitchen, Rabbi Matondo is learning fast at Schalke 04.

After he trains with the Bundesliga club, Matondo sits down for German lessons.

And when they are done, the 19-year-old Wales winger attempts to cook like Gordon Ramsey.

"I am enjoying it," says Matondo, who joined Schalke from Manchester City in a £9.6m deal in January.

"Where I live there is not much to do - it is quiet in Gelsenkirchen.

"I am not around any of the distractions of living in Cardiff or Manchester with my friends. It's nice to be around your friends, but I think being alone I just do more for myself. That's improved me.

"I am just going out, playing football and doing little extras, going to the gym and stuff like that. And eating good food."

Born in Liverpool but raised in Cardiff, Matondo left Cardiff City's youth set-up for Manchester City's academy at the age of 15.

Now he is fending for himself at Schalke, where he had his best day yet last month.

In his only appearance to date this season, Matondo scored in a notable 3-1 victory at RB Leipzig.

Matondo's first senior goal was a major step forward, a notable landmark in his young career.

Away from the pitch, Matondo concedes his German is a work in progress - as is his cooking.

"I go on Gordon Ramsey a lot on YouTube and see what you can cook up. I try to copy," Matondo says with a smile.

"It's not quite similar - but I try my best."

Matondo hopes to add to his three international caps when Wales play key Euro 2020 qualifiers in Slovakia on Thursday and at home to Croatia on Sunday, 13 October.

What may count against him is the lack of game time he has had in 2019-20, with a pre-season injury hampering his progress under David Wagner, the former Huddersfield Town manager who is now in charge at Schalke.

But Matondo's contribution against Leipzig - for whom Wales colleague Ethan Ampadu was an unused substitute - caught the eye of Ryan Giggs.

Matondo played in a front two rather than out wide and finished sharply when his chance came just before the hour.

"He's a talent," says Wales manager Giggs.

"With the speed he's got, he's an option, whether starting or off the bench. That's good to see."

There has not yet been a race on the training ground, but the suggestion from the Wales camp is that Matondo is quicker across the ground than Dan James.

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Rabbi Matondo or Daniel James: Who is Wales' fastest player?

Anyone who has seen Manchester United winger James in action over the last year or so will know that to be swifter than him is quite something.

Certainly Wales are blessed with pace going forward right now and that could make counter-attacks key in Slovakia.

Whatever role he is asked to play, Matondo comes across as the type who will take the challenge in his stride.

He has managed nine appearances in all for Schalke, a tally which has justified his decision to swap Manchester for the Ruhr Valley.

Matondo insists he was confident he could make the grade at the Etihad Stadium, but left because he wanted senior football fast.

"It wasn't that I couldn't see a pathway - I believe in myself," he says.

"Obviously at Manchester City it is tough, all the players are top players.

"But it was more that I had the opportunity to go and play first-team football and at the time I didn't have that at Manchester City. I preferred to play first-team football so I took the opportunity.

"When I was younger I always believed in myself. I always thought: you will be playing at a good level when you are 17, 18, 19.

"That's what I am doing at the moment and hopefully I can keep improving."

Rabbi Matondo
Rabbi Matondo scored his first senior goal in front of more than 42,000 fans as Schalke won at RB Leipzig

Schalke are currently sixth in Germany's top flight, level on points with Bayern Munich and only a couple behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

It has been an impressive start to the season following a disappointing 2018-19 campaign, with manager Domenico Tedesco sacked last March following a 7-0 Champions League mauling at Manchester City.

Wagner was appointed in May and took the reins at the start of this campaign.

"There are a lot of experienced players in our team who have played Champions League and World Cup," Matondo says.

"I am learning from them. It's a great opportunity to play under a great manager as well.

"Hopefully I can keep playing for Schalke and that will improve my chances with Wales - to get some minutes and goals and make the nation happy and proud."

Giggs' players will do just that should they secure positive results this week against the two countries who currently occupy the qualification positions in Group E.

Wales are fourth, four points behind leaders Croatia, and know there is little margin for error in their four remaining qualification games.

"There's always pressure when you pull on the Wales shirt but hopefully we can get the results we need," Matondo says.

"Watching (Euro 2016) when I was younger, it would mean the world to me to be able to represent Wales in the Euros next summer.

"It would be a dream come true."