"I don't really get too pressured or stress too much – it's just me, that's how I am," says Real Sociedad's 19-year-old forward Mohamed Ali Cho as he aims high in the UEFA Europa League.
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As we approach the round of 16, the UEFA Europa League Wonderkids series returns with Real Sociedad's thrilling youngster Mohamed Ali Cho.
At 19, Cho shows a confidence and dedication that all young players can aspire to. Having made history as the youngest player to sign a professional contract in French football, there is an exciting future ahead for the forward.
Mohamed Ali Cho made his first team debut with Ligue 1 side Angers in 2021 before lighting up the Spanish Liga with Real Sociedad following his 2022 move.
The former Paris Saint-Germain and Everton academy player moved back and forth between France and England as a child and featured for both national teams at youth level, his exposure to different styles of play standing him in good stead for European competition.
"Moving to different countries and taking part in different tournaments makes you become a better player," Cho says. "You're seeing new things and learning from different cultures. In Spain, most teams love possession – getting on the ball and trying different things. It's different in the UEFA Europa League because you don't know what you will be coming up against."
The UEFA Europa League challenges ambitious clubs and players, and provides a great opportunity for young players like Cho to test themselves in an atmosphere unlike any other competition.
"There is something about when you play in the UEFA Europa League," Cho says. "The songs, the nights, the lights, playing against the big teams from different countries – it's incredible.
"For young players it's even better. That type of high-level competition at such an early stage in your career is an experience: it really helps you develop more in your game and progress."
Making his European debut in a 1-0 away win against Manchester United was a career highlight for the young star. "I was buzzing when I learned we were playing them," he recalls. "Old Trafford is a legendary stadium, I've watched big players play there when I was a young kid, so to play in that stadium in front of my family and friends was incredible. Some of my friends who used to play for Everton came to see me and were in the Real Sociedad fan section – I loved to see that. Our fans were amazing, it was a very special night.
"Coming up against big players like Cristiano Ronaldo and testing myself against them was unbelievable experience for me. But whoever I play against I will just keep playing the way I play. I don't really get too pressured or stress too much, even playing at Old Trafford. It's just me: that's how I am."
Cho shows a classy combination of unbridled ambition and humility in his desire to push himself further, and highlights how important his family are in keeping him grounded. "I always had it in my head that I wanted to play in a high level of football," he says. "There are some social events you might miss because maybe you have a game the next day or the day after, but everything has been worth it. I'm only just getting started – I need to keep going, keep working, keep doing what I've been doing since I was young to get even higher."
Cho's self-belief and the joy he takes in playing are something all young players would do well to emulate. "Belief is incredibly important. If you don't believe in yourself who will? If you play without joy, you lose something. The day I stop smiling on the pitch I'll feel different. I just love playing the game."
Watch PSV's Xavi Simons in the the launch episode of the three-part Wonderkids series, which spotlights some of the most promising players in the UEFA Europa League. The final episode, featuring Real Betis' Luiz Henrique, will launch mid-March.