From the Handbook: Amine Harit
This profile was originally published in the Scouted Football Handbook 2018, our huge, 114-player Handbook published a couple of years ago. You can download it for free, here.
CAREER IN REVIEW
Frustration characterised Amine Harit’s start to the year. A mercurial talent plying his trade at Nantes, he started 23 times for the Ligue 1 side during the 2016/17 season but failed to find consistency in a struggling side.
The midfielder’s wings were not necessarily clipped at Nantes, though he was often deployed on the left given his appetite for dribbling with the ball: Philippe Coutinho is an excellent player to keep in mind throughout this profile, his playstyle and career trajectory is the ideal accompaniment.
But if Harit’s talent was not being fully exploited in France, representing them at youth level saw all his qualities come to the fore. Despite the national side underperforming on the whole, Harit carried his brilliant performances in the 2016 U-19 European Championship into the 2017 U-20 World Cup. France waltzed into the knockout round but fell to Italy in the last 16, for all their individual talent they lacked a ruthlessness that a certain Kylian Mbappé had helped give them the previous year; an air of complacency was evident.
The most significant moment of Harit’s year however was his €8 million transfer to Schalke. A move to the Bundesliga came with the possibility of being granted even more responsibility, because of the manager in charge.
Domenico Tedesco’s side began the 2017/18 Bundesliga season with a fashionable 3-4-2-1 formation in which Harit would operate as a midfielder-come-forward supporting the striker; a position that suits his skillset but still restricts him from exerting complete influence over the game.
Schalke’s impressive start was kick-started by an alteration to the system which saw perennial wunderkind Max Meyer move to a much deeper role than usual, sitting in front of the back four to dictate tempo and begin each attacking move, rather than be responsible for applying the final pass. Ahead of Meyer, Tedesco crafted some very intriguing and exciting partnerships, which Harit has become an integral part of.
Come the end of the year, Amine Harit had established himself not only as a favourite amongst Schalke fans, but his manager as well. Pledging his senior national allegiance to Morocco was another big decision in terms of accelerating his development, but ultimately the playing time and freedom afforded to him at club level was the most substantial.
STYLE OF PLAY
Harit is an excellent dribbler and looks his most dazzling when picking up the ball in deeper areas, turning the opposition and driving past them to eat up ground. Able to dribble and squirm out of almost impossible situations, he is not only unafraid of receiving the ball, he demands it. Each pass, touch and venture forward oozes flair, with the Moroccan’s deft flicks and intricate control characteristic of players who share his North African heritage. Such mastery of the ball means the Moroccan is a tricky customer for opposition defenders to handle; usually there is only one option - foul. Harit was the most fouled player in Ligue 1 last season, being hauled down 82 times in total. Bundesliga defenders are having similar problems: Harit was the most fouled player in the league before the winter break, fouled 56 times in just 1,172 minutes—4.3 per 90. He is quite simply near-untouchable in full flow.
Amine Harit won more fouls (159) than any other under-23 player across Europe's top five leagues since the start of 2016/17 season
For all his technical prowess, Harit is not the cleanest striker of the ball, especially from long distance. Neither a goal-threat from range or completely capable of switching play effectively, he operates best in tight confined spaces; the less expansive the better. Even then, Harit’s passing looks unorthodox or clumsy at times, but he is improving with each game at finding a killer through ball or pass in the final-third. Carrying the ball forward and hurdling onrushing challenges can sometimes impact his ability to find a pass, or inhibit his vision, but with runs being made ahead of him, his through balls are perhaps his most lethal creative weapon in terms of seeking out team-mates in attacking positions.
Without the ball, Domenico Tedesco has helped channel the competitive fire that burns within. Amine Harit has become an effective member of the Schalke press and his tackling success rate has risen to above 60%. He will never become an aerial threat, but that is the one area where he looks void of any technique.
Philippe Coutinho was a player earmarked as someone similar to Amine Harit: incredible close control, flair in abundance and a delight to watch with the ball at his feet. The only major weapon Harit is lacking in comparison is the ability to score from well outside the area. But just as Harit shares many of Coutinho’s technical talents, in a similar fashion he has been a victim of them. For far too long Coutinho was used out wide purely because of his ability on the ball and his favoured shooting position. If Amine Harit were to have stayed at Nantes, a similar path could have befallen him. At Schalke, Harit has been unshackled.
The Moroccan is effective in this wide position, but his talents are not fully utilised. He can be a frustrating player at times and there is no doubt that Harit still has work to do; keeping his head up and learning when a pass can be just as effective as taking a player on are the first steps. However, the faith Domenico Tedesco has placed in him is the trust his talent deserves. The central role he currently operates in will be the key to unleashing the full potential of such a mercurial talent.
FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE
It is easy to forget that the 2017/18 campaign is the Moroccan’s second full season at senior level. The main aim will be to sustain the level of performance that saw him change international allegiance after being selected to represent Morocco at senior level, despite being a key part in France’s youth sides in recent years. The opportunity to display his wares on an international stage will help secure his growing role in Tedesco’s developing Schalke side, or even attract the attention of an even bigger player in the European football market.
However, in Tedesco, Amine Harit has found a manager who genuinely believes in him; a massive fan of his talent. The hugs after each game show us a glimpse of the close player-manager bond that has already been formed between the two and such a relationship is exactly what the midfielder needs: the trust will give him the freedom to express himself but, most importantly, Tedesco is a manager that Harit can trust himself, ensuring he will improve in those problem areas.
Schalke is the perfect platform to develop and with Leon Goretzka on his way out, the Moroccan international has the chance to become a focal point in Gelsenkirchen. Capable of filling such a void or even causing selection issues elsewhere, it would be a massive shame if his potential were left unfulfilled. The right environment is therefore key and at that time of writing, that is most certainly in Germany, tucked under Tedesco’s wing.
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