A REAL LIFE JOURNEY!

In: Premier League

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Tricky winger Yasin Ben El-Mhanni's career is just like Alex Hunter's!

YOU MOVED FROM NON-LEAGUE TO NEWCASTLE LAST SEASON – IS YOUR LIFE IS LIKE THE JOURNEY ON FIFA 17?

Yasin says: “Haha, yeah! Do you know what reminds me of my life? Have you ever watched the movie Goal? When I moved to Newcastle people were making jokes saying I’m like Santiago Munez – coming out of nowhere and playing first team football for Newcastle.”

HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING ON THE BEACH IN THE RAIN LIKE IN THE MOVIE?

Yasin says: “Haha, I haven’t done that yet!”

AS A YOUNG PLAYER TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE FIRST TEAM, IS FIFA'S STORY MODE ACCURATE?

Yasin says: “Yeah, it is. Nowadays it’s all run on statistics, so when you’re coming on for 20 minutes you want to make sure you don’t lose the ball. You want to score, everything now is based on whether you score a goal, get an assist, how many times you lose the ball and I think The Journey is actually quite accurate to that. In the game you come on for 20 minutes – it’s like real football!”

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU'd be playing FOR THE FIRST TEAM?

Yasin says: “There were three players that got picked to go and train with the first team – me Dan Barlaser and another player called Jamie Holmes. I had a feeling I might be involved because when we were doing the shape work I was always in the starting line-up and playing on the left. One of the assistants was asking ‘Would you prefer playing on the right or the left?’”

WHO STOOD OUT TO YOU IN NEWCASTLE'S FIRST TEAM?

Yasin says: “They’re all a joke – really good! Standout for me is Jonjo Shelvey – he should be playing for England! He’s class. His passing is a joke – pinging it everywhere, he’ll find you anywhere on the pitch. Even when I’ve been watching him at St James in the crowd, some of the passes he picks out when under pressure you think ‘Where has he got that from?’ He was trying to score from corners at the end of last season. It’s banter!”

WHAT DID RAFA SAY TO YOU WHEN YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH THE FIRST TEAM?

Yasin says: “He said to me at one point ‘Do you have ability? Well then run at your player with the ball!’ He’s respected because he’s Rafa Benitez! Not many people achieve what he has. He seems friendly and is smiling all the time. When I’ve trained with him I’m never sure if I’ve done well in his eyes because he’s hard to read!”

WHAT WERE THE EMOTIONS LIKE GOING OUT AT ST JAMES’ PARK TO PLAY BIRMINGHAM IN THE FA CUP?

Yasin says: “I was so nervous. My agent came to watch and I could’ve performed way better than how I performed that game. I worked hard, I tried to do the simple things. It was nerve-wracking. I could hear my name being shouted ‘El-Mhanni! El-Mhanni!’ it was scary, seeing all the lights! I’ve never ever played in front of that many fans. Maybe at non-league the most I played in front of was 600 or 700, but this was something else! Playing at St James’ is the highlight of my career.”

ANY STANDOUT MOMENTS IN THE GAME?

Yasin says: “There was one point where I took a second to look around, seeing Jonjo and all these other players like Matt Richie with me on the pitch, I was thinking ‘I’m on the same pitch as these guys?’ Then I saw Rafa instructing me, I was thinking ‘What am I doing here?’ I felt like I was in a dream! Hopefully I get many more moments like this again.”

IN THE NEXT ROUND YOU STARTED AGAINST OXFORD BUT NEWCASTLE LOST 3-0!

Yasin says: “I do think I performed a lot better than the Birmingham game and my nerves settled down quite a bit. We shouldn’t have lost that game, if we’d have taken our chances we wouldn’t have lost that game which would’ve been good for myself and a lot of players to be involved with another win. You can see the competitiveness in first team players, the disappointment I saw in them was one of the main aspects I took away from that day. How much they cared. Some people say footballers earn this much and that much and don’t care, but they do. I could tell Rafa was frustrated too.”

YOU’RE COACHED BY NEWCASTLE AND ENGLAND LEGEND PETER BEARDSLEY WHAT’S HE LIKE?

Yasin says: “He’s a very good manager. He expects a lot from you. Most of time he tells me to just put a cross in the box. If I beat a player and don’t put the ball in the box I can tell he’s mad! He says ‘Yas – football’s judged on end product, not whether you beat this player and then come back and beat him again, you’ve got to score goals and provide!’ He said to me that the winger is the most effective position on the pitch – if you play that position you have to be doing well every single time! One time I broke past a defender and waited for him to come back and chop him again which I shouldn’t have done, I should’ve whipped it in the box and that would’ve been my job done.”

HE’S PROBABLY GOOD TO BE COACHED BY AS HE CAME FROM LOWER LEAGUE TOO AND WAS ATTACKING AND CREATIVE!

Yasin says: “I heard that he went on a few trials and got rejected when he was my age which I couldn’t believe because he was class player. He told me that he used to down to the park on his own too and practice all the time. Everyone compares him to Messi! He scored some joke goals!”

WHAT ARE YOUR AIMS FOR THIS SEASON?

Yasin says: “I want to play first team football somewhere, maybe that’s on loan, or if I need to stay and prove myself again and wait for another opportunity to arise I will. I want to be a Newcastle player. Whatever I have to do to prove that I can play for this first team, I’ll do it. If I have to go out on loan then so be it.”

YOU WERE BORN IN ENGLAND BUT QUALIFY TO PLAY FOR MOROCCO THROUGH YOUR FAMILY – WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS?

Yasin says: “I’ve got aspirations to play international football at U21 level. It’s a tough one – it’s whoever comes calling first to be honest! I’d love to play for Morocco and I’d love to play for England as well! It’d be something I’d have to sit down and think about properly. I think I’d pick England! Being born in England I feel more English to be honest.

Yasin spoke to MOTD mag at an AG Football Academy session

Pick up this week's magazine to read him talk about the time he met Neymar and acted as his body double in a Nike advert!

DE BRUYNE! His form is frightening, laying on goals like they're going out of fashion!

ZAHA! Inspired Palace to their first win of the – and against Champions Chelsea!