Hachim Mastour is currently 22 years old- feel old yet?
Once touted as the next Ronaldinho, 14 year old Mastour has inevitably faded under the pressure of the media, and failed to ever live up to his promise.
It seems harsh saying a 22 year old has failed to live up to his potential, seen as his career most likely has over a decade left to play, but when you were once being chased by the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Juventus and eight years later plays in the Series C for Reggina, it's hard not to feel underwhelmed by the wasted potential of a player who clearly has immense talent.
But where did it go wrong for young Mastour?
Tearing apart the youth cups for Inter Milan, despite rules disallowing him for featuring for them, Mastour caught the attention of higher power when at 13 years old he bagged himself five goals against a very talented AS Roma youth side in the lelasi Memorial tournament.
His ability was quickly noticed by some of Europes giants, as he received offers, yes at 14 years old, by Man City, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, but the youngster opted to remain in his native Italy for Milan- but rather for AC than Inter, despite playing in youth tournaments for Inter, but joined the Rossoneri's for a fee of 500,000 euros after he was recommended by former manager Arrigo Sacchi.
When joining one of the biggest clubs in Italy, Mastour was obviously doubted due to the club paying a fee for a 14 year old, but he attempted to silence his critics by dribbling and doing kick-ups with a cherry, yes a cherry, live on Sky Sports Italia.
In 2014, as Mastour began to show his immense potential within the Milan youth system, he was promoted to the first team under manager Clarence Seedorf, where he would become the club's youngest ever player to feature in the Serie A, but he failed to come off of the bench against Sassuolo. And whilst it became clear Mastour was a fantastic player, he was struggling to break off of the bench and onto the pitch, and so he was loaned out to Malaga in Spain with the hopes of gaining some first team experience.
However it became clear that Mastour's loan deal was more of a marketing strategy by Malaga, to gain more media attention under the influence of owner Abdullah al-Thani, and so it rather hindered Mastour's progress into becoming a world class playmaker and rather left Mastour with a lack of confidence, lack of sharpness and a lack of will to keep moving forward.
Mastour spoke on his disastrous spell in Spain, saying: "This penalised my sporting growth because I just wanted to play. Unfortunately, the great expectations that existed ended up limiting my time on the field, which was the one thing that most interested me." Mastour told TuttoMercatoWeb.
It also didn't convince AC Milan that he had done enough to break into their squad, which was understandable, as he had made one appearance for Malaga before his loan spell was eventually ended, to the relief of Mastour.
If this was any other youngster who had suffered a difficult spell, it would most likely be pushed under the rug and forgotten, but with Mastour he was still given too much weight on his shoulders, as Fabio Balaudo of UEFA stated: "He has excellent dribbling skills and sublime technique which 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."
Even after his shaky loan spell, he was named in the top 50 wonderkids in world football by the Guardian newspaper, a player who couldn't get into the Malaga squad being compared to the likes of Christian Pulisic and Dayot Upamecano, two Champions League players.
Following all of the hype surrounding Mastour, people expected to finally see him thrive in 2016 when he was shipped out on loan to PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands, a not very well-known club who lacked quality in their squad. It looked as if Mastour would join the Dutch side and tear the Erevedise apart with his silky skills and incredible dribbling, but the Moroccan failed to ever get going and once again failed to live up to the ridiculous expectations placed on his shoulders like a sack of potatoes.
Two years later, and the hype which once saw people mesmerised by young Mastour had seemed to vanish, as his contract expired at AC Milan and he found himself clubless, which was crazy to say he had been the subject of a bidding war from European giants at the age of 14, but nevertheless, Mastour would surely have learned from his mistakes and would now be looking to get his career back on track to finally fulfil the promise he once had. And in September 2018, he officially signed on the dotted line for Greek Superleague side Lamia on a contract worth up to £200,000 a year.
However Mastour's road back to form was impeded by Lamia, as he suffered an injury in December and the club refused to help treat him and so the Moroccan was absent from the club. Rightly so, his contract was mutually terminated in March and Mastour returned to Italy, in the hopes of rebuilding his career at home.
Mastour made the brave decision to drop down to where it all began, returning to the Serie C with Reggina after just six appearances for Lamia. Mastour seems at peace with returning to the Amaranth, claiming to be "honoured" to have signed a three year contract with "a great club like Reggina".
Whilst from an outside perspective it's been disappointing to watch Mastour's decline down the leagues after such immense promise, you also have to feel bad for the international. He was once the name on everybody's lips, a teenager who was wanted by every girl and got to do his dream job, to have the ball at his feet. But the remainder of Mastour's career depends entirely on three things; if he can avoid injury, which he's struggled with in the past, if he can get the desired game time he needs to unlock his full capabilities, and whether he can reach the right mindset and attitude to regain his eye-catching displays.
We may all remember Hachim Mastour as a boy, being the subject of a transfer saga between a number of the world's biggest clubs, but now he needs to make a name for himself as a man and rekindle the attention he once received. At the end of the day, Mastour's ability was never really in doubt, it was the endless, overwhelming media attention that will do a youngster no good but make him feel anxious and constantly under the careful eye of every supporter, it can be profuse to be hyped up so much that you feel as if you are going to let people down, but this was the case for Mastour.
It is now key that the 22 year old focuses on himself and his career, as he is in the greatest profession in the world which should not be wasted.