"I'm training with great players that I was watching on TV until last season," gasped Hachim Mastour; meet the 16-year-old being tipped for big things at AC Milan.
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UEFA.com begins its new weekly wonderkid feature by looking at AC Milan's Hachim Mastour ...
Name: Hachim Mastour
Club: AC Milan
Debut: still to make senior debut
Position: striker/attacking midfielder
Date of birth: 15/06/98
Preferred foot: right
They say …
"He's a talented player and he is doing very well. He has the right attitude on the pitch, plays well, scores lots and listens to the instructions he receives from the bench. This is the most important thing for me."
Filippo Inzaghi, Milan coach
"Nobody at Milan has any doubts his ability. We need patience but he can leave a mark in the first team."
Filippo Galli, Milan youth director
Born in Reggio Emilia to Moroccan parents, Mastour joined Milan from AC Reggiana in July 2012, aged 14. In 2013/14, despite being just 15, he played three games with the Milan Primavera (or Under-19) side, coached at the time by current senior boss Inzaghi. On 18 May 2014, then-Milan coach Clarence Seedorf drafted Mastour into the first-team squad for the Serie A game against US Sassuolo Calcio, but he did not feature – had he done so, he would have been Milan's youngest-ever senior player and the fifth youngest in Serie A history. On 15 June 2014, when he turned 16, he signed a first professional contract, committing to the Rossoneri until 2017.
Playing style …
Excellent dribbling skills and sublime technique have made him almost impossible to mark for players in his age group. With great control at speed, a good shot with both feet and the ability to change pace, he is expected to shine behind the forwards or as a winger.
A blend of …
His ability in making the ball disappear with his tricks earned him comparisons with former Milan ace Ronaldinho and FC Barcelona forward Neymar.
Eureka moment …
On 29 October 2014, Mastour scored his first goal for Milan Primavera, against Sassuolo, and he did so in style – picking up the ball in midfield and racing through to elude the opposition's defensive line with an astonishing 'ruleta' (double drag-back) before beating the keeper at his far post. A glimpse of magic that recalled Zinédine Zidane.
Best-case scenario …
With Stephan El Shaarawy sidelined with a foot injury until April, Inzaghi might turn to Mastour to reinforce his attacking options. The start of a brilliant career for a player whom El Shaarawy himself described as "destined for greatness"?
He says …
"Being with Milan's first team at 16 is unbelievable. I'm training with great players that I was watching on TV until last season. It's a dream come true."