Fresh Start: Why Hachim Mastour’s Move to Morocco Makes Sense

Mastour and shaarawy

In 2012, a young Italian footballer of Moroccan descent started to attract attention from all over the world. Hachim Mastour, a skilled midfielder with incredible footwork, was impressing in youth tournaments and his highlight reels were going viral. Social media and the internet spread clips like wildfire, and Mastour had the world at his feet.

With so many teams interested, it appeared AC Milan had found a bargain when they forked out an alleged half a million euros to bring the 14-year-old in from his local team Reggiana. Early on, he stayed on the trajectory for stardom. Two years later, Mastour once again made headlines as he filmed an ad with superstar Neymar Jr. By 2015, Mastour became Morocco’s youngest ever international player and was listed by the Guardian as one of the top 50 prospects in the world.

However, it wouldn’t last long. Two unsuccessful loan spells in Spain and the Netherlands followed, with Mastour playing a total of seven matches. Concerns about his attitude and work rate started to emerge, and, quite remarkably, he was out of Milan by 2018, just six years after being tipped for greatness. He never featured in a game for Milan.

Still, it was somewhat of a surprise when Mastour joined struggling Greek club Lamia, hoping to revive his career. Only 20, Mastour hoped for an impressive campaign that could help him rejoin Europe’s elite. Yeah, right.

Instead, concerns about his character again lingered as he constantly fought with the Greek side. He was accused of going missing by Lamia, while Mastour claimed he was rehabbing in Italy. His performances on the pitch (six games, one assist) didn’t justify the controversy off of it, so once again he found himself out of contract.

After being without a club for another half of a year, Mastour returned to Italy in 2019. This time, it was a significant step down to Italy’s third tier with Reggina. This proved to be – sadly – the most consistent part of Mastour’s career, as he stayed with the club until 2021. Unfortunately, it still proved relatively uneventful, as he made just 14 appearances. No goals, one assist.

A loan to Serie C side Carpi followed, where Mastour showed some flashes of talent. He scored the only professional goal of his career in one of his ten matches, limited by injury. Unfortunately, that remains the only goal of his career. Returning to Reggina after his loan, his contract came to an end. He hasn’t had a club since July 2021.

Until now, that is. Mastour is now joining Renaissance Zemamra, a team in the second tier of Morocco. For many, this confirms their opinions that his career is effectively over, despite Mastour only being 24. Simply put, Mastour isn’t producing wherever he’s playing.

However, there’s still hope, and this could be just the right move to get his career back on track. Mastour has frequently cited the spotlight and the attention he faced in Italy as problems in his development, making it hard for him to concentrate on playing. In Milan, he was a top prospect; with Carpi and Reggina, he was constantly compared to who he was before.

In Morocco’s second tier, Mastour won’t have to deal with the spotlight and will be able to focus. He’s also familiar with the culture, language, and play styles of Morocco, as he’s a former Moroccan international.

Renaissance Zemamra are one of the stronger teams in Morocco’s second tier, having finished fourth last season. They ended up being only eleven points off of an automatic promotion spot – and hopefully, Mastour can provide the boost they need to earn promotion.

His pace and footwork still make him a nightmare to face in 1v1 scenarios. Even with Carpi, Mastour showed this, causing problems for opponents and drawing countless fouls. With Zemamra already boasting one of the best offenses in Morocco’s second tier, Mastour should be able to help get them in more dangerous positions.

For Mastour, it will be crucial to have a strong first season in Morocco. If he excels, he could earn a move to one of Morocco’s top clubs, which regularly impress in Africa’s continental competitions. This could even see Mastour return to the national team if he plays his cards right, as Morocco rates its league highly.

Either way, it’s hard to argue that Mastour has failed to live up to his undoubted potential. At 14, Milan paid half a million euros for him, the only transfer fee of his career. At 16, he became Morocco’s youngest player in history, the only international appearance of his career. Now 24, he plays in the second tier of Morocco.

Still, Mastour has a chance to revive his career. He’s never going to hit the levels once possible, but he still can play at a decent level. This isn’t the first time Mastour will have hard this, but this truly is a make-or-break moment for him.

Image courtesy of Haider Alhuraifi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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