Neal Maupay says he wasn’t ready for life as a goalscoring teen sensation in France.

The striker who made his name at Nice when he was 16 found life tough away from the pitch.

Time in the Championship – away from the spotlight back home but learning fast on the job with Brentford – was just what he needed.

Now Albion’s new striker has relived those tough times on the Cote d’Azur and explained why he is ready for the spotlight he will inevitably receive if he scores goals in the Premier League.

After a brilliant start to professional life at the club he joined when he was nine, Maupay seemed to lose his way under Nice boss Claude Puel, the man who later took charge at Southampton and Leicester.

He told The Argus: “The manager at Nice had some problems with me.

“He was saying to everyone that Neal is not playing because of injuries, because of his knee but that wasn’t the truth.

“Because I started really young there were a lot of expectations.

“I don’t think, with my club, we managed that pressure really well.

“I just wanted to be a player on the pitch and play some football.

“I didn’t want to do media, I didn’t want to have some TV shows talking about me.

“I just wanted to be an anonymous player.

“I knew when I signed (for Brentford) that nobody knew me at that time. I was just free in my head.

“I was like, ‘Okay, now nobody knows you, you can just start from the bottom and show them who you are’.

“I knew it was kind of crazy to play at 16 and score goals but I am not the kind of guy who will get excited just because I am playing well.

“At that time, I was just living with my family and it was all normal. I was just playing football.

“I didn’t know what professional football or the media and all this stuff was.

“Then I realised all the pressure was on me. A lot of people were talking about me.

“People were saying, ‘The last one who started as young as Neal was Eden Hazard, blah, blah, blah’.

“For me it was fine but a lot of people around the club or when I was walking the street were coming to me and were like, ‘you’re young, you’re the new star’.

“I wasn’t really cool with that because I just wanted to be like a normal player.”

Albion are known to have been interested in Maupay when he joined Brentford in 2017.

But clubs were not exactly queueing up to take him.

In France, there are those who recall him having injury issues about that time.

Whatever the reason, the initial excitement had evaporated – and the French public are not exactly short of hot footballing properties to take their attention.

Maupay said: “Two years ago, when I signed for Brentford, they wanted me but there were no other clubs.

“When I was about to sign for Brentford, then Brighton came but basically that was it.

“I was trying to find some clubs who trusted me as a player and put me on the pitch.

“People were talking about injuries but basically I just did my ACL when I was 16. I stopped for about ten months.”

The Brentford move came at the right time. He said: “I wanted to play. I needed to improve and become a better player.

“When you are young, to improve your game you have got to be playing.

“It wasn’t any shame for me to say, ‘Listen you don’t have the Premier League level yet, you have got to go to the Championship and improve your game to take that step in one, two, three years’.

“That’s what I did and I think it has worked for me.”

He grew up quickly at Griffin Park because he had to.

He said: “We were a young team at Brentford. I was one of the youngest but I had to take on this leadership because the team were so, so young.

“Because I started really young I had this professional football experience. I had to take this leadership. 

“This is completely different. We have got more experienced players.

“They can take the pressure and I can just be me, work hard and try to be good on the pitch.

“To join Brentford was the best decision of my career.

“I needed to be in a club who trusted me out on the pitch and played me.

“Brentford said, ‘You are young, we believe in you, we give you time and you will improve as a player.”

Now comes the big chance. The eyes of the world will be watching if he does well.