As I woke up on Monday morning and, as I do every morning, checked the news to find out what was going on, my heart skipped and my stomach sank as I read that Hachim Mastour was the subject of a bid from Paris SG.
Now, like many people, I tend to have different reactions to different types of news story. For example, I take the ‘interest’ stories with a pinch of salt, as most of the time they are speculative at best and not well-informed.
However, a bid suggests a far more serious interest in a player, and thats what I read on Monday morning – that PSG had apparently made a €5million opening offer for our young star.
As difficult as this was to interpret, digest and ultimately come to terms with, it is important to reflect upon this story and weigh up the problem that is Hachim Mastour. Of course, I don’t mean that Mastour himself is a problem, it’s more the dilemma of what to do with him.
Before the Mastour-fanatics come charging in with their ‘he should start next season’ and ‘he is the future’ statements (the latter may be true), we must assess and reflect on the fact that until this point he has done little to suggest or warrant either.
Everyone has seen the videos of his silky skills, bursting runs and clinical finishes, but again the crucial aspect is whether he can first of all turn that into production in the Primavera, before finally making his assault on the Serie A.
Hachim’s injury problems to this point are well documented, and it will be nice to see how the 2015-16 season goes for him in terms of receiving regular game time to develop his ability (assuming he is still in the Rossonero). Without doubt he is one of the hottest prospects in football as a whole in terms of technical ability, yet we need to see this converted into actual statistical evidence.
For example, in 2013-14, Mastour’s first season at Milan, he played 22 Primavera minutes. Granted, he was only 15 for the majority of the season, earning promotions for Matchdays 22 and 26 against Brescia and Atalanta respectively.
Last season (2014-15) was one that won’t really have done his development an awful lot of good. It was the season for him to kick on and cement a Primavera place, but unfortunately due to injury he only managed to appear in eight games.
In those eight games, he didn’t manage a goal or assist, only completing the full 90 minutes four times and playing a variety of positions across the forward line including both wings and the centre-forward role.
However, he did bag a goal in the Coppa Primavera, and it was something quite special. Having come on as a substitute, he played a nice one-two pass before dribbling through the heart of the defence, rouletting the Sassuolo defender, and calmly slotting past the goalkeeper.
It was a goal that drove the internet and football hipsters crazy, lofting his ‘starlet’ status to catastrophic levels, simultaneously alerting the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The upcoming season is where, in my opinion, the difficulty lies. Obviously last season Pippo Inzaghi failed to really incorporate him into the end-of-year plans, despite our helpless situation – in fact he didn’t really involve any Primavera players despite numerous pleas from supporters.
There are numerous different ways we can go about treating Hachim Mastour, some more controversial than others.
Firstly, we could keep him in the Primavera squad, with his injury problems following his knee operation hopefully behind him, so he can have a season to fully develop his all-round game and start to maximise the talent and potential.
If he impresses, there is the opportunity to promote him to the first team then, but in my view this should only be exercised if there is a serious chance of being involved, otherwise it is wasted time regardless of how beneficial ‘being part of the first-team setup’ is.
The second option is to fit him in to the first team setup as much as possible, in a very opposite approach to the one discussed above. This is the idea that having experience in and around the main Milan squad will have a plethora of positive impacts on his maturity and mental development as well as his actual physical progression.
There is an element of sacrifice with this; the acknowledgement that Hachim may struggle for actual game time, but again it is all about the quality of the training etc. he will receive and the professionalism of the processes he will undergo.
Of course, the benefit of this is that he will feel more valued as a player also, as if he is on the verge of becoming a centrepiece for the Rossoneri. It would give Sinisa Mihajlovic a chance to assess the young starlet and analyse where his game really is, so despite the lack of minutes he would get it could still be beneficial.
As a side note, I am not saying that it would take him being in the full squad for Mihajlovic to know how he’s doing; Sinisa will obviously be getting reports from Cristian Brocchi and the other Primavera coaches should that be where Mastour spends the majority of his time.
Thirdly, there is obviously the opportunity to loan him to a club in order to secure more professional match experience. There would be a lot of takers for a loan deal, not just in Italy I would imagine, so again it would be down to the management to determine what is the best club for him.
If the right chance came up in Italy, then it makes sense not to unsettle him too much in his younger age and to loan him to a side perhaps in Serie B, or possibly a little below at a push. There would need to be guaranteed minutes on offer, at a respectable standard, with regular checks to ensure everything is going well. It sounds like a given, however it is very important the player feels comfortable and gets the best out of the experience.
The fourth and final option, my least favourite (and presumably every other Milanisti’s) is to cash in on him now. The €5million offer may have been a feeler from PSG just to test the water and gauge a possible price that Milan would reluctantly sell for.
It would demonstrate a poor attitude from Milan if he was to be sold at any price in my honest opinion, given that there is no real need to raise any funds and no indication that the player wants to leave.
Paris, Monaco et al, have every right to enquire, but I for one wouldn’t be alone in being devastated if he left. We don’t know yet what he could be, what he is and what he will be, there’s no reason to end that journey now. That being said, there are some vital decisions to make. Mastour is touted as a ‘once in a generation’ talent; he himself saying he hopes one day “to win the Ballon d’Or”.
The sky is the limit for the Moroccan, so let’s see what he can do.
Article by Oliver Fisher