After a difficult start to the campaign, Mohamed Ihattaren has found his spark for PSV Eindhoven. The 18-year-old could now be key in the title race.

  • By Michael Bell
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“I feel like the Mo of last year,” beamed Ihattaren with a big smile on his face after PSV Eindhoven’s 4-1 victory over RKC Waalwijk on Saturday evening.

The midfielder was excellent in the victory and capped his performance with a lovely strike from distance that flew into the bottom corner. It was his second goal in two games, and an indication that we are finally getting to see Ihattaren reach the level he showed last season.

Ihattaren was the leading light of a poor PSV campaign last year, but the season-ending early and the extended break had a bad effect on the youngster, who also lost his father after an illness.

Roger Schmidt came in and immediately set high standards for the 18-year-old, who struggled with his fitness early in the campaign. He was in and out of the starting line-up and was even dropped from the squad at points as he struggled to deal with his role in Schmidt’s 4-2-2-2 formation

However, Schmidt’s work has paid off and Ihattaren is back to top fitness after extensive work with fitness coach Yann-Benjamin Kugel. He could be seen chasing every ball against RKC Waalwijk, and completed 90 minutes for only the second time in the league this season.

Ihattaren admitted to Voetbal International, he has come through a black period, “I was in a black period for a while, but I’m through it. I have five brothers who have helped me enormously in that, just like my mother of course. Of course, it is a shame that I carried it with me on the field for a while. On the other hand, I am young and I am allowed to make mistakes. No, it doesn’t feel like I fell on my face. I see it more like a mirror.”

Ihattaren is happy he has experienced a dip early in his career, “I’m glad it has happened now. Many boys don’t experience it until around the age of 24 and then return to the Netherlands after a foreign adventure. I woke up on time and became mentally stronger, I also know more about life.”

The return to form of Ihattaren comes at a great time for PSV, who face VVV-Venlo before heading into a winter break. Once they return, January is a tough month that will see them face Ajax in Amsterdam and then host AZ Alkmaar within three days. Two games that could be pivotal in the title race.

“We’re not afraid of anyone, let them come,” Ihattaren says and a confident PSV are definitely more than a match for anyone in the Eredivisie.

It could be an excellent 2021 for Ihattaren, who will be aiming for the Eredivisie title, to excel in the Europa League, and finally make his Netherlands debut. The youngster’s bow in Oranje has been delayed by his fitness issues but he could be coming right into form ahead of a breakthrough at the European Championships.

However, Ihattaren’s form also comes with an issue for PSV, who are trying to get their star to sign a new contract with the club. His current deal ends in 2022, and Mino Raiola is his agent.

Instead of committing his future to PSV on Saturday evening, Ihattaren told VI, “I feel good in Eindhoven and I really enjoy it. What does my feeling say? That I have to keep chasing the balls like tonight. I leave the rest to my agent.”

Ihattaren has ambitions to play at the top and if PSV cannot get him to extend his contract then he will be sold in the summer. There will be a host of clubs interested with the midfielder getting the attention from the best in Europe ever since his days in the PSV youth team.

For now, we can enjoy seeing Ihattaren light up the Philips Stadion and it remains to be seen whether he can inspire PSV to the Eredivisie title.

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