Youness Mokhtar - five-a-side

We asked midfielder Youness Mokhtarto pick his own five-a-side team consisting of players he's either played with or against during his career, including one current or former Crew SC teammate.

Mohamed Salah (Forward, Liverpool)

Background: Mokhtar's experience with Salah dates back to 2011, when Mokhtar's U-23 Moroccan team got the best of Salah's Egyptian side, 3-2. In that match, Salah scored in the 12th minute and Mokhtar responded with the game-sealing goal in the 66th minute.

Youness's Explanation: “So I played against him in the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco. You could see at that time that he was already a good player, and he’s now developed to be an even better player and is one of the best in the world, so that’s why I chose him.”

Virgil van Dijk (Defender, Liverpool)

Background: The two overlapped in the Eredivisie as well as in the youth national realm, during which Mokhtar played in the Dutch system before pursuing a path with the Moroccan youth national teams.

Youness's Explanation: “I used to play with him in the Under-17 in the National Team for the Netherlands. I used to play a lot of times against him in the league [Eredivisie]. So I know him,he’s one of the best defenders, or the best defender at this time, so that’s why I chose him.”

Thiago Alcantara (Midfielder, Bayern Munich)

Background: A 16-year-old Mokhtar started against a 17-year-old Thiago in the semifinals of the 2008 U-17 UEFA European Championship, as Thiago's Spanish side went on to advance 2-1 in extra time and eventually win the title.

Youness's Explanation: “I played against him in the [2008] U-17 European Cup in Turkey when we played against Spain and he was playing as a number 10. At that time, he was already a big fellaand you could see that he was a good player. ... He’s very comfortable with the ball, so he’s also goodat the number six position or as a number eight. He’s a smart player, a technical player and he is comfortable with the ball so he can play all those positions.”

Georginio Wijnaldum (Midfielder, Liverpool)

Background: The two players went head-to-head in the youth system in the Netherlands in addition to overlapping at PSV Eindhoven while Mokhtar was playing with the U-21s. Georginio eventually went on to play for Newcastle before signing with Liverpool, as he most notably scored two goals in the club's legendary semifinal comeback vs. Barcelona en route to claiming the 2019 UEFA Champions League title.

Youness's Explanation: “Wijnaldum, I actually played with him at PSV[Eindhoven[when he was in the youth and when he was at Feyenoord, so I know him also. He is a good mixture and dynamic, box-to-box, so that’s why I chose him. I think he could help and he’s playing very well at Liverpool.”

Vito Wormgoor (Defender, Crew SC)

Background: Mokhtar & Wormgoor go way back to the Eredivisie days, where, in Mokhtar's words, he held the upper hand... 

Youness's Explanation: “I think Vito is definitely adapting very well. He’s comfortable and doesn’t seem like he’s new here [in MLS]. He’s playing behind me on the left sideand I have a good connection with him. ... Vito used to play for ADO Den Haag and I used to play for PEC Zwolle and I passed him a couple of times [laughing] when we faced off. He is big but I’m dynamic, so he has difficulties defending that.”

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