Go back to 2019, and out of all of PSV Eindhoven’s young prospects at the time, many would have considered attacking midfielder Mohammed Ihattaren to be the most talented and exciting. Unfortunately, Ihattaren’s career has taken a sharp turn – disciplinary issues and personal tragedy has combined to see the 19-year-old’s progress stutter.

  • by Joe Langlands
  • Follow Joe on Twitter @JJL296

Ihattaren is still just 19, so before being disappointed with the uncertainty of his career at present, it is important to not let it overshadow his past performances, because he is so young.  Ihattaren had scored 13 and assisted 12 in less than 40 games for Jong PSV, and across the U17s through to the U21s. Form like that at youth level is hard to go unnoticed, and Ihattaren made his first 12 senior appearances in the 2018/19 season, making his debut aged only 17. Predictably, Ihattaren was provided with more game time and seriously kicked on in the 2019/20 season, being influential from midfield at times. Ihattaren scored three in the Eredivisie and a further three in the Europa League as well as adding three assists to his name – very healthy contributions for a midfielder under the age of 20 playing in a disjointed PSV side who endured a disappointing season, ending up in fourth before the season was voided.

It wasn’t until the 2020-21 season just gone where the problems started to arise for Ihattaren. On the face of it things weren’t too bad, Ihattaren made 26 more appearances and had five goal contributions; however, there was an undeniable dip in performance which coincided with aforementioned disciplinary problems. After Christmas, Ihattaren was lacking in fitness and was said to be acting in an unprofessional manner in training sessions. Ihattaren is managed by infamous ‘super-agent’ Mino Raiola who only escalated the situation by making provocative comments about manager Roger Schmidt to the media. Things reached boiling point this summer when Ihattaren was completely abolished from first team training. This also clashed with Ihattaren and Raiola being spotted at the training ground of OGC Nice, who had already signed fellow PSV midfielder Pablo Rosario and AZ star Calvin Stengs.

In defence of Ihattaren

Ihattaren’s disciplinary issues are of course unacceptable in the eyes of PSV management and of course totally unprofessional. For example, he had claimed to be suffering with illness when he was photographed in Nice. These issues are more of a delicate issue than they may appear though. In October 2019, Ihattaren’s father Mustapha died following a battle with cancer. Ihattaren had always spoken highly of his father as being a motivational figure in his footballing career and many believe his father kept Ihattaren disciplined as he was well aware of his son’s potential. Ihattaren’s father’s death had come at a time where Ihattaren had the pressure of reaching stardom in the PSV first team at just 17, and he had huge decisions to make such as whether to commit his international career with Morocco or the Netherlands – who he had represented throughout youth level.

It seems Ihattaren’s loss has started to catch up with him in combination with the adjustment to life since COVID. Sometimes personal issues are often discounted abruptly when it comes to professional athletes, and it must also be made clear that Ihattaren has had to deal with this still aged only 19. This is not an excuse for his behaviour, but it certainly may explain a large part of Ihattaren’s fall out with the PSV hierarchy.

The options for Ihattaren

In football terms there is still a place for Ihattaren at PSV; however, he may have burnt too many bridges already. Ihattaren’s contract has 1 more year left, so in the perhaps unlikely event that he should make up with Rodger Schmidt et al, then he could compromise, give one more season where he tries to give it all, and then be allowed to leave on a free or for a cut price midway through the season if his performances are up to par.

What seems more likely is that Ihattaren will look to start over fresh elsewhere and look to reignite the early stages of his career abroad. Joining the current Dutch Contingent at Nice is the only rumour with any substance at the moment, and it may prove fruitful with Ihattaren having the chance to work under an exciting coach in Christophe Galtier, and he will presumably settle more smoothly there with fellow Dutch internationals around him. Alternatively, Ihattaren could look at other options, but they will be limited, as top clubs, who may have been interested previously, may be put off by his attitude problems and may question his commitment. On the other hand, mid-table clubs may use that as a chance to swoop in and sign Ihattaren, offering him a place to redeem his career while they potentially benefit from the talent he has to offer.

At 19-years-old, it is disappointing to see Ihattaren’s career momentarily being blighted by off the field issues. However, he has more than enough time on his side to turn things around. For anyone who has witnessed his mercurial talent they will be hoping that is the case.

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