Mohamed Ihattaren is one of the brightest talents to come out of PSV’s Youth Academy in the last decade, and has shown sparks of brilliance for the first team of the Dutch club in the past few seasons. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
On the 26th of January 2019, Mohamed Ihattaren made his debut for the first team of PSV under manager Mark van Bommel. He was just 16 years old, and was seen as one of the biggest talents the club from Eindhoven had produced over the past decade. He became the first player to debut for the first team of PSV before even making his debut for Jong PSV, the U23 side, which played in the second Dutch division for the first time ever. Ihattaren played 8 games for PSV before officially joining the first team.
On 18 August 2019, Ihattaren scored his first goal for PSV in the match against Heracles, which was won 2-0 with Ihattaren scoring the second goal. His first European goal was four days later, where he scored the opening goal in the Europa League qualifier against Apollon Limassol which ended in a 3-0 victory.
On 7 December 2019, the attacking midfielder scored his second Eredivisie goal against Fortuna Sittard. He scored the fourth goal in the 5-0 victory and dedicated his goal to his father, who passed away two months earlier. Ihattaren understandably took a bit of time off football but scored after he returned. The goal was a penalty, and Ihattaren became the youngest player in the Eredivisie to score a penalty (17 years, 298 days), breaking Ronald Koeman’s record (17 years, 325 days).
After only winning 2 out of the last 12 games, fans gathered outside the Philips Stadion and were rioting, demanding PSV to fire manager Mark van Bommel. Van Bommel was fired in just his second season after also getting knocked out to RKC Waalwijk in the Dutch cup and dropping out of the Europa League group stages.
PSV shared first place with Ajax on the 18th of October, but had no chance against FC Utrecht and lost 3-0. Key players Donyell Malen and Steven Bergwijn got injured for multiple weeks which started a terrible run of games and eventually the end of Van Bommel’s era as PSV manager, the man who gave Ihattaren his first team debut and made him a regular starter. Ihattaren was one of the main men for this season, with PSV ending up in a disappointing fourth place in the Eredivisie.
After all this, there was still a question unanswered: will Ihattaren play for the Dutch or Moroccan national team? After the Netherlands missed out on Hakim Ziyech who chose to play for Morocco a few years prior, the Netherlands surely couldn’t miss out on another big talent? Months went by, also during the time Ihattaren sadly lost his father, but ‘Mo’tje’ eventually chose to play for the Netherlands. Expecting to see his debut for the Dutch national team following soon, Ihattaren was dealing with the loss of his father for the next international matches. There was a big chance of him getting called up for the friendlies against Spain and the United States, but COVID threw a spanner in the works. To this day, Ihattaren still hasn’t played a match for either Jong Oranje, Netherlands’ U21 team, or the first team. He wasn’t called up to the U21 Euros with Jong Oranje earlier this year neither.
During the COVID period (where there was no Eredivisie football), Ihattaren openly admitted in an interview with Helden Magazine to have had a difficult period, still dealing with the loss of his father and now also with the perception of other people towards his attitude. Ihattaren posted a picture of his new car, worth around €200K, on his Instagram during the first period of COVID with people criticising him and “his understanding of the world at this period” as Gertjan Verbeek, former manager of clubs like AZ, FC Twente and FC Nürnberg, mentioned in De Volkskrant.
THE START OF A CHANGE
After COVID interrupted football for months, Ihattaren returned from holiday but was overweight, as was visible in the new PSV-kit launch. Ihattaren didnt shine in the pre-season and there were sudden doubts of his discipline and mentality. Ihattaren was called up for the Dutch national side but was benched by interim-manager Dwight Lodeweges against Poland and Italy and Ihattaren looked very unhappy and was slumped down on the bench.
New PSV manager Roger Schmidt started the season against FC Groningen with Ihattaren on the bench, who was sent off training earlier that week because of a lack of effort. Ihattaren did start in the match against Heracles Almelo, but after playing as a striker and not playing too well, he was subbed off at half-time. He was on the bench again in the Europa League match against Rosenborg, not getting any minutes. It was clear from the start that Schmidt is not willing to give Ihattaren a preference just because of his talent status. Hard work and discipline are key for Roger Schmidt’s strategy and tactics, and Ihattaren didn’t seem like the player to have those capabilities.
After not playing many minutes for a short period, Ihattaren scored a beautiful goal in the Eredivisie match against FC Utrecht, ran to the sideline and gave Schmidt a hug. Schmidt helped Ihattaren a lot regarding his attitude and effort and it seemed like Ihattaren was on the right path again.
But after another period, Ihattaren kept getting less minutes and once again there were doubts of his attitude. PSV captain Denzel Dumfries spoke about the situation in a press conference and said to have taken Ihattaren under his wing. Dumfries made it clear that Ihattaren wasn’t bringing enough.
Ihattaren played a fair amount of games in the following period, sporadically scoring a goal or giving an assist, but he also missed a few matches due to not being in the match squad or due to ‘illness’. The latter became a more occuring theme throughout the season, as Ihattaren missed a couple of games due to being ‘ill’ or ‘injured’. Questions were raised when he proceded to post clips on his Instagram, showing him being with friends at larger gatherings and not focussed on his football or the current COVID period which he seemed to ignore again. And of course he wasn’t ill, which PSV kept bringing up when Ihattaren wasn’t in the squad.
Ihattaren missed the last four matches of the Eredivisie season being ‘ill’ or ‘injured’, and didn’t even play in 8 out of the last 12 matches of the Eredivisie season. PSV made a statement towards the end of the season stating that the club, staff and players have tried everything to help Ihattaren focus on his football again and be the big talent he once was again. Ihattaren was dropped from the first team’s squad.
All this whilst also not signing a new contract at PSV, which was set to expire after the 2021/22 season. PSV knew Ihattaren couldn’t walk out for free as he was still one of the biggest talents in the entire squad and could earn the club a lot of money, but Ihattaren didn’t sign a new contract for months.
The 2021/22 season started and Ihattaren was left out the squad for the first few matches, but was in the matchday squad in the Champions League qualifier against Galatasaray, which PSV won 5-1. It was expected to see Ihattaren making some minutes again, especially as PSV was comfortably winning the match, but manager Schmidt decided to sub on Ryan Thomas instead of Ihattaren. Ihattaren was once again ‘ill’ in the second leg against Galatasaray and was dropped from the squad since, because Schmidt only wanted players in the squad who were fully focused on reaching the Champions League group stage. PSV ended up getting knocked out in the fourth qualifying round against Benfica.
No one really knew what was going to happen with Ihattaren. Was he going to pick himself up and fight his way back into the first team, or is he planning to move elsewhere?
There was a lot of silence during the summer transfer window, but eventually Ihattaren got what he wanted. Juventus bought the current 19-year-old and immediately stalled him at Sampdoria for the season. The fee of the transfer hasn’t been announced but is rumoured to be around €4-6 million. Not exactly the fee what PSV was hoping for when Ihattaren was one of the stars of the team two seasons ago. Many were surprised to see Ihattaren being signed by Juventus, but Mino Raiola’s power once again shone through in this transfer.
Now it’s all on Mohamed Ihattaren himself. A new journey in a different country might help him seek his salvation or go the exact opposite and ruin his potential and career, ending up like a former PSV wonderkid by the name of Zakaria Bakkali, who was another top talent coming through the Youth Academy of PSV, but a lack of effort and bad attitude from Bakkali made him never reach his potential, or even come close to that.
Will Mohamed Ihattaren become one of the stars at Sampdoria this season and potentially find a spot in the Juventus squad in the near future? An interesting journey to follow to see if Ihattaren can fulfil his potential or become another failed wonderkid.
Thank you for reading this story of Mohamed Ihattaren. Do you think he will fulfil his potential or will he become a flop? Let me know in the comments. Be sure to follow me on my socials (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok) to see more interesting Career Mode related content!