Le50 2017 – Amine Harit
The second half of 2016 began a rollercoaster ride in the life of young FC Nantes midfielder Amine Harit, as he has since taken in a first international tournament as well as developing into a regular Ligue 1 starter at the tender age of 19.
Watching him play, it is unsurprising that he has been compared to such French greats as Zinedine Zidane and Franck Ribery. By the same token, it is little surprise to see some of Europe’s big boys keeping an eye on the latest rising star to break out in the yellow and green of Nantes.
Having been scouted in les Canaris’ youth set-up he was taken to Germany to take part in the Under-19 European Championships in the summer of 2016. He went on to start all five of les Bleuets’ matches, helping his team-mates to bring home the title.
Harit came to the attention of many in French football thanks to those displays in blue, contributing three assists to the team, including for the first goal early in the final, setting France on their way to a comfortable 4-0 win over Italy.
On the back of these impressive showings Harit was promoted into FC Nantes’ first team. New manager Rene Girard started Harit in his first match at the helm at Dijon in a 1-0 win for the away side. He excelled in this game completing six dribbles and finishing with a pass completion rate of 85%.
This was no flash in the pan as Girard would select Harit in his starting eleven in every league game until the thirteenth game of the season when only suspension would prevent him from playing away to PSG. He would go on to start all bar two of FCN’s following ten league games as well in what was a fairly turbulent period for the club, with the team struggling for wins.
Despite the opening day win Rene Girard’s tenure never really got going, as the club had to deal with his lack of popularity coupled with the huge levels of animosity between large sections of the fans and Waldemar Kita, the president of the club. Having survived one must-win game at home to Bastia in October, Girard would not survive the 6-0 demolition at home to Lyon at the end of November.
Girard was replaced by Portuguese coach Sergio Conceicao in the aftermath of the Lyon debacle. This change saw the team undergo a whole raft of sweeping changes on and off the pitch. Under Girard, Harit found himself in a variety of positions across the midfield, often in a 4-3-3 formation. The second half of the season has seen Harit almost exclusively playing on the left flank in Nantes’ 4-4-2 formation.
This positioning gives Harit the opportunity to utilise his principal skill-set: namely, his talent on the ball. Harit averaged 2.9 dribbles per match over the course of the 2016/17 season, which puts him third overall on that particular table. He was equally the third most fouled player in Ligue 1, suffering an average of 2.7 fouls per game – evidence of his ball control and high-level trickery.
Harit opened his goalscoring account for Nantes in Conceicao’s first league match in charge, down the Loire River at Angers. Harit collected the ball from a corner for the home team and mounted a lightning counter attack. Making it into the opposition half he threaded the ball past the last defender where Jules Iloki had broken the offside trap. Illoki went one-on-one with the goalkeeper, attempting to take the ball around him, but his slightly heavy touch allowed the onrushing Harit, who had continued his run, to slot home.
Working with Sergio Conceicao has clearly had a profound effect on Harit, who says of the workaholic attitude brought to the club by the Portuguese gaffer: “He is not an easy-going coach, he is very demanding. He is a coach that is tough but the work will pay off”.
Harit spoke recently on how his manager had helped him progress enormously and worked on things he perhaps ignored in the past: namely defensive and tactical rigour. This is an area in which he has progressed substantially.
When the news broke that Conceicao wanted to take the FC Porto job just weeks after agreeing a long-term deal at the Beaujoire, Harit’s tweeted response, befitting of his youth, came in the form a set of surprised emojis.
To reinforce Harit’s progression and impressive season he was again selected for summer youth international tournament action when taken to the U20 World Cup in South Korea at the end of the domestic season. Harit started three out of France’s four games, chipping in with a goal in the group stage win over Honduras, before France were knocked out in the second round, the Italians gaining their revenge.
Overall, Amine Harit seems to have everything set in place to develop across the board. His goal at Angers would be his only one of the season and he will surely look to improve on the pair of assists that he contributed last season. With his first season now under his belt Harit has everything at his disposal to continue to blossom at Nantes. However, when European super clubs are linked one can never be sure how long his time at the Beaujoire will last. At least Harit will not get ahead of himself : “I never put myself under pressure. Out on the pitch, it’s all about enjoyment. I am free and I never overthink the game. I think this is one of my strengths.”
After this profile was written, Harit signed a four-year deal with Schalke 04.