For those of you not familiar with the name, Hachim Mastour became a YouTube sensation back in 2012 following a record breaking €500,000 move from Reggiana to AC Milan at just 14. Highlights of his youth games surfaced shortly after, showcasing a young player with unrivalled skill, flair and eccentricity.
His reputation continued to grow as he turned 15. He began to feature for Italy’s U16 squad, and was featured in a Red Bull video where he demonstrated his freestyle ability against Neymar. His incredible agility and ball control had made him the most promising young footballer in the world. Mastour was a certified wonderkid, with a skillset way beyond his years.
By the end of the 2013-14 season, Milan’s manager, Clarence Seedorf, gained special permission from Serie A in order to include the 15 year old on the bench for their final game of the season. Despite not making it on the pitch, Mastour was the youngest ever player to make the Milan bench, and the hype around him was higher than ever.
After a season of little progression under Filippo Inzaghi at Milan (and a switch of international allegiance to Morocco), Malaga decided to take the attacking midfielder on a 2 year loan deal (with an option to buy included). The move turned out to be a disastrous one though, as Mastour played just 5 minutes of football for the La Liga side before they cancelled the loan deal after his first season.
Determined to prove himself, Mastour was back on loan at the start of the following season, this time with PES Zwolle in the Eredivisie. Zwolle manager Ron Jans seemed more than willing to make the move work.
“He can do anything with the ball, as we have seen two years ago on YouTube.”
The greatest danger is the huge expectation.” Jans claimed, “He is so young, we want to keep him in the background, but I think we can get the best out of him.”
But, despite his precautions, Jans couldn’t make the move work for Mastour, and after one start, four substitute appearances and 150 minutes of football Mastour appeared to be frozen out at Zwolle, and failed to add to his five Eredivisie appearances in the second half of the season, with Jans highlighting a lack of depth in the teenager’s game as one of his main drawbacks.
Mastour had developed into one of the most skilful young players in the world, he guaranteed to excite almost every time he got the ball, with a vast array of tricks and an unpredictability to his game which had frustrated so many of his opponents in the past. However, the rest of his game had failed to develop at the same rate, limiting his game massively.
This meant that Mastour grew accustomed to playing in tight spaces, allowing his agility and footwork to get him out of trouble, but once out of trouble he struggled to impact games. When given time on the ball he became hesitant and cautious, and his movement off of it wasn’t as effective as the other players in his position. He was seen as a liability, and for all his skill he still remained largely ineffective for his sides at the top level.
Even Morocco, who made him their youngest ever player when he was 16 years old and 363 days had decided against giving him any further caps. The once immense promise of Hachim Mastour was fizzling out quicker than anyone could imagine.
He managed a final season at AC Milan despite fears that his contract had expired at the end of the 2016-17 season, but he once again failed to make an appearance for them, this time under Gennaro Gattuso (who claimed to have deterred Mastour from uploading freestyle videos by threatening to knock his teeth out). As the 2017-18 season came to an end, so did Mastour’s Milan contract and he finally became a free agent.
Still just 20 years old, Mastour is by no means ‘finished’ and still has plenty of time to turn his career around if given the opportunity. But given the success of his previous opportunities, will any club take the risk? A logical move for him would be one back to the Eredivisie, a league known for aiding the development of young, technical players. However, having failed to make an impact at one Dutch club, he may struggle to attract any more attention there.
Mastour would also benefit from some more consistent surroundings. Several managerial changes at AC Milan coupled with two loan spells has meant that Mastour’s career has been full of constant change, not allowing him to settle at a particular club, or for a particular manager. If he’s willing to take a step down to a lower reputation club where he’s allowed consistent game-time in a system that suits him, he could reignite a successful career still.
But for now, the youngster who was once wanted by the Juves, Barcelonas and the Madrids of this world is without a club and generating very little interest. Is there more to come from Hachim Mastour?
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