Italian club AC Milan are in turmoil. The 2013/14 season saw them go through three coaches in the space of six months and finish at a disappointing eighth on the Serie A table.
Lethargic in many ways, the Rossoneri lost nearly as many games as they won. With 16 wins and 13 losses, Italy’s most successful club in Europe endured a torrid and a humiliating time all season. The fans bemused and flummoxed lost hope. There were cries of despondency, forlornness and anguish.
With key players like Kevin Prince-Boateng and Mario Balotelli sold, the red and blacks’ future is unforeseeable. But with all the pandemonium and turbulence that the club seems to be shrouded in, there’s one fine young player who is starting to fill the hearts of the club’s fans with anticipation and optimism.
Recently included in Milan’s squad for the 2014/15 season, he is 16-year-old Hachim Mastour.
Full Name: Hachim Mastour
D.O.B: 30th June 1998
The AC Milan youth system or the Primavera as it is known in Italy, has produced some of football’s biggest names. Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta are a few names that spring to mind.
The most recent young talent that it has to offer is 16-year-old Moroccan footballer Hachim Mastour. Masquerading as the ‘Moroccan Messi’ on social media, the youngster has dazzled everyone with his skills and has left youth football enthusiasts all over the world astounded.
Born in the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy to Moroccan parents, Mastour has dual nationality. He started his footballing career by joining local club A.C. Reggiana 1919 at the age of 10.
Having impressed scouts with his skills, he soon got a call from Milan’s arch-nemesis, their local rivals Inter Milan. Mastour delighted with the opportunity, played in a few youth tournaments for Inter, most notably, in the Memorial Ielasi tournament, where he scored five goals including one in the final against AS Roma.
According to the Italian football federation and it’s policy on youth footballers, a player under the age of 14 cannot leave his local area, thus preventing Inter from signing him then. But he played a few tournaments in an Inter shirt for two years but remained officially a Reggiana player.
With the list of admirers getting longer and longer everyday, including Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, AC Milan decided to step up their pursuit of the starlet. The head of the Rosonneri’s youth set-up, Mauro Bianchessi, made it his mission to add the youngster to his squad and decided to push on a deal that would take Mastour right under Inter’s nose.
AC Milan’s CEO Adriano Galliani, after having a brief conversation with former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, who was a massive admirer of the teenage sensation, gave his approval and Milan splashed out €500,000 to sign the player. A record sum for a player of that age.
Mastour has spent the last two seasons featuring heavily for Milan’s Under-16 side – Allievi Nazionali. Despite struggling with a few injuries, the youngster produced some spectacular goals for the side.
He soon got a call up to the Italian U-16 national team and played six games for them, scoring a goal against Croatia. Overawed by his talents on the pitch, Milan’s then U-20 coach and current manager Filippo Inzaghi called him up to the U-20 side.
The world soon took notice of the phenomenal young talent when he was called up by then Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri to train with the first team squad. “He has the quality of Robinho, the professionalism of Kaka and the natural ability of Balotelli,” said Allegri after watching his immense talent first-hand.
Mastour was included in the match day squad of Milan’s last game of the 2013-14 Serie A season against Sassuolo. Unfortunately the youngster couldn’t make his much anticipated debut for the first team squad which could have made him the youngest player in Milan’s history, beating Paolo Maldini, to feature in a Serie A game and the fifth youngest ever in the history of the league after Amedeo Amadei, Giovanni Rivera, Aristide Rossi and Giuseppe Campione.
Strengths and weaknesses
When asked about what his main characteristics as a footballer were, Mastour replied,”My main characteristics? Ball control and dribbling. I do things that other boys my age don’t do.”
Primarily a trequartista, Mastour has also featured at left-wing for Milan’s youth sides. With mesmerizing skills, impeccable technical ability, and immaculate dribbling, Mastour is destined to become one of the game’s most potent attackers.
He is one of those players who produce who can produce something out of nothing, a la Messi. Milan’s U-17 coach Omar Danesi spoke volumes about the young star but insists that the player’s transition to the first team squad should be dealt with calmness and caution.
“It is impossible to take the ball from Hachim,” Danesi, told Gazzetta dello Sport. “He can run at breakneck speed. He has grown so much this year, especially in his work with the rest of the team.
He is very young and there is a lot of scope for improvement. For the talent he has he is definitely a player to play at the San Siro [for Milan]. But he is very young and should be allowed to grow with calmness.”
His over enthusiastic attempts on producing a bit of magic on the pitch often leads to him doing exaggerated and unnecessary tricks. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma were often criticized for showboating at the most inappropriate of times and this is something young Mastour must learn soon.
Physically underdeveloped and thin as a rail, Mastour needs to build up a physique to survive the rigours and studs up challenges of the Serie A. It is one thing to dodge defenders with just a drop of the shoulder in youth levels and a whole different matter to do that against a professional and elite player of the top flight.
Compared with a plethora of elite footballers including France legend Zinedine Zidane, Mastour counts Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar as his idols. Sportswear giants Nike were so sure of the boy’s pre-destined stardom that they signed him on for a 10-year sponsorship deal, which runs until 2022.
Great things are expected from Mastour and his undeniable ability as a very talented footballer. The Milan fans will definitely be hoping that Mastour would not become one of those players who show early signs of promise and yet lose their way into football obscurity much like the Freddy Adu’s, the Kleberson’s and the Kerlon’s of the world. “Italian football is a specialist in fenomeno,” wrote the brilliant Andrea Schianchi on the Gazzetta dello Sport, “to launch them and then to forget them in a provincial dressing room.”
We certainly hope that this will not be that case.