Blow for Morocco as Ihattaren opts for Netherlands

PSV Eindhoven starlet Mohamed Ihattaren
Mohamed Ihattaren has committed his international future to The Netherlands

PSV Eindhoven midfielder Mohamed Ihattaren has dashed Moroccan hopes by committing his international future to The Netherlands.

The 17-year-old prodigy had been approached by the North Africans because his late father was originally from the country.

"I decided I'm Dutch from today," Ihattaren posted on social media.

Ihattaren had been included in Morocco's provisional squad for friendly matches in September.

But he declined the invitation and asked for more time to decide his international future, which - two months on - he finally has.

He has now switched allegiance to his country of birth, with whom he won the 2018 Under-17 European Championship.

The Dutch federation (KNVB) also confirmed Ihattaren's decision on its website, posting a picture of him posing with a Dutch jersey alongside national coach Ronald Koeman.

"I thought about it for a long time, I also consulted a lot with my family," Ihattaren told the KNVB website (in Dutch).

"In the end we decided to opt for the Dutch national team. The Dutch federation did a lot for me in representing the youth teams. I went through everything there and that makes it difficult to leave."

"I have been playing for the Oranje since Under-14. I have won the European Championship with Under-17."

Meanwhile, Koeman is understandably delighted with the decision of a youngster whose stock has risen since making his PSV debut in January.

"I am a helper of the young player who is undergoing a great development and is now playing in PSV first team," said Koeman.

"He's the kind of talent I want to retain for Dutch football and luckily he has chosen the Oranje."

Relief

His decision to choose the Netherlands comes as a relief for the KNVB, who have had a long struggle to retain the services of Dutch-born players from the country's large Moroccan community.

It has been the subject of irritation that they lost out in recent years on players such as Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Amrabat, who picked Morocco despite entreaties from the KNVB.

The North Africans run a proficient scouting system among the Diaspora and Morocco's national team, as well as its Olympic squad, is filled with players born in Europe.

At this year's Africa Cup of Nations, the Atlas Lions had five Dutch-born players in their squad - Nordin Amrabat, Mbark Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi, Oussama Idrissi and Ziyech - plus others born in France, Portugal and Spain.

Ihattaren has featured in nine of PSV's 12 league matches so far this season, scoring one goal.