Manchester United's promising teenage midfielder Hannibal Mejbri has been tipped to break into the first team at Old Trafford as one of his former coaches offered an insight into his playing style and potential ability.
The playmaker - who will be pushing to be in Goal 's 2021 NxGn list of the 50 best wonderkids in world football - arrived at Old Trafford from Monaco last summer for an initial fee of €5 million, rising to €10m, and he has already made an impact.
His performances for the Under-18s and U23s have already piqued interest and there have been some early calls for him to be given a chance in the first team at some point.
Academy chiefs at United are keen to play down the understandable hype surrounding the teenager, in order to not add any pressure on the young star's shoulders, but his former coach from boyhood club Paris FC believes the 17-year-old has what it takes to go all the way to the top.
"I believe he has what it takes to make it to the first team, I think he is on the right path. With humility, work, patience and the help of God, he will evolve in the first team. That's something he greatly deserves," Paris FC coach Reda Bekhti told Goal.
The talented schemer started his career in the ranks of the academy of the Parisian club and caught the eye of coaches from an early age. Bekhti coached Mejbri from the age of eight and by nine he was already being scouted due to his skill and ability.
"Hannibal was a very good player and a very mature boy from a young age. From the beginning of his time at Paris FC, we admired his football qualities. He had personality and effectiveness," Bekhti said. "He was always smiling, very polite and very well-mannered. That was due to a very good education from his parents. He was a player who was eager to learn and very demanding."
Other clubs started enquiring about the midfielder from the age of nine and United's French youth scout, Mathieu Seckinger, first became aware of Mejbri’s talents while working for his previous club Nancy, when the midfielder was playing for the U13s.Getty Images
And Bekhti, who coached Mejbri for seven years up until the age of 15, believes it is his ability to read the game and his vision that started setting him apart from others at a young age.
"His football strengths are mainly based on his ability to see things before others. On a football field he has intelligence far above the average," Bekhti explained. "In addition to this, he has a lot of technical ability and is a modern midfielder who is capable of combining excellent recovery of the ball, fast transitioning and the ability to finish."
Mejbri has only been at United for eight months but has already been commended for his leadership skills and it’s something Paris FC coaches noticed early on.
"From the earliest age he had the charisma and personality. He was already giving out instructions and he was often captain," said Bekhti.
And while some have been quick to try and compare the playmaker to legendary leaders from United’s past, Bekhti thinks his style is most similar to Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi.
"Today when compared to a Premier League player, I see it as Guendouzi," Bekhti said. "Like Hannibal, he is French, from French training, and grew up in the Paris region. His playing style is similar to what Hannibal can do in the Premier League in the coming years."
And the belief is that Mejbri has been given the perfect grounding to establish himself as a successful Premier League player in future.
"Paris FC is one of the best clubs in the Paris region in terms of training, with quality players in each team where he could evolve. Myself and other coaches have tried to give him the best possible training so that he can have the best background and it can be used for the rest of his career," Bekhti said. “I’m sure he will have the success he greatly deserves.”