Some of the best deals we see in transfer windows are often the ones we don’t even notice, the ones that occasionally slip under the radar and make an impact when no one is expecting it. The two that come to mind immediately are Cengiz Ünder at Roma and Schalke’s new midfielder Amine Harit, who joined the club this past summer for just 10M€ from Ligue 1 club Nantes.
As many people will agree, two of the best leagues to improve as a young player and learn about what it means to play at the highest level are the Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga. Both leagues give you a taste of top-flight football and also allow younger players to learn and give them time to adapt and find their feet. For most players, this time is vital to their development, but for Harit, he’s taken to both leagues in such a short space of time. Harit only moved up to the Nantes first team in July 2016, and in the year between his promotion to the first team and his transfer to Schalke, he established himself as one of the most exciting, yet unnoticed youngsters in European football.
Early on in his career at Nantes, Harit was known as an exciting young prospect, but of course, as is the case with so many, he needed time to adapt to Ligue 1 football, and it took a while for him to find his best position. The 20-year-old was placed on the right wing at times and even in central midfield, but it became clear that there were two positions where he excelled at: the left wing and a central attacking midfield position. His versatility and ability to adapt to different positions made him a tricky player for opposition defenders to deal with, because they didn’t know what he was going to do next.
Harit isn’t a tricky player in terms of flicks and skills–not like Ousmane or Neymar–but in the sense that his turn of pace and his ability to beat his man has made him hard to keep out of a game. One way or another, he would find a way to get the ball forward or win a free kick. He’s not exactly a lightning quick player, but his play on the flanks is a little bit more intricate than simply running past a player. Harit brings others into play, whether that be with crosses and long balls from the left or playing one-twos around defenders. Does he pull out tricks? Of course, he does drag backs and other flicks at times, but it isn’t his main attribute. Harit, who switched international allegiances from France to Morocco this month, has an eye for a pass but never overplays the ball; he always knows when to accelerate and when to turn back, and he certainly knows how to turn defence into attack. His stats may not show the work he does, given that he only gained one solitary assist during his time at Nantes, but he was always the pass before the pass before the goal.
Of course, you can’t fully judge Harit by his stats, so to really appreciate what he can do, you must watch him play. He glides past his opponents with ease and grace, but he always has control of the ball, and he is always looking up for the right pass or move to make. He is more than just a dribbler; he has the awareness and intelligence to function as an all-round attacking midfielder.
His performances for Nantes in Ligue 1 last season were superb as he and the team, managed by Sérgio Conceição, finished in 7th place, just outside of the Europa League places. It was a fantastic season for all involved at the club, but what it also meant was certain clubs, bigger clubs, would be looking to pull out a few gems from the Nantes farm, with Harit being top of that list. He impressed in almost every Nantes game and had become a key player for the French U20 side, so it was a certainty that he was going to leave the club.
However, much like he does on the pitch, Harit made the smart move and chose to join Bundesliga side Schalke 04 to further his development.
“This move is a big step in my career,” explained the young and excited Harit. “I’ve followed Schalke for a long time–Raúl, in the Champions League games and the games against Nice in last season’s Europa League. I am sure I can develop into the player I want to be at a club like this.”
For a player so young, who has essentially been thrusted into the limelight, he has an incredibly calm head on his shoulders, and this is evident in his career choices so far. It could have been easy for him to risk it all and go for the glory move, but he decided to make the move that suited him and his development, something that must be applauded.
And so far in the Bundesliga season, we are seeing that this may have been the perfect move for Harit, who already has three assists in five games, albeit from the right wing. He made his name for Nantes as a left winger and occasionally as a central attacking midfielder, but he’s become more productive in the stats columns on the opposite flank. This not only shows how keen he is to adapt to every role, but also how adept he is at adapting and not being afraid of a challenge.
After an outstanding start to life in Germany, Amine Harit has established himself as a crucial part of Schalke’s XI. Harit is a special player, and it is clear to see that he has a winning mentality to match his world class ability.
By: Tom Scholes/@TomScholes316