Arriving on loan from Nice at Southampton, Mouez Hassen was once an undisputed starter at the Ligue 1 club despite only being 19 at the time.
Benched by Claude Puel midway through last season, the 21-year-old was replaced by Yoan Cardinale, who remains the Ligue 1 side’s number one, with Hassen relegated to third choice under Lucien Favre.
However, he feels no bitterness towards the now-Southampton manager, which is a good thing since he’s about to spend the next five months with him.
Speaking to L’Equipe on Tuesday, he said: “He did the right thing. He didn’t do it randomly. At the time, I remember, he tore me a new one. He made me understand that there’s expectation at the top level. Mentally, he gave me everything. The will to win, the desire to not lose challenges. On and off the pitch, he has been essential to me.”
Explaining he has now ‘matured’ as a human being, the young goalkeeper is determined to continue his development as a player, even if things stagnated a bit over the past year or so with his lack of first-team football.
Unable to refuse a move to the Premier League, Hassen revealed the necessity of moving far away from Nice, a town and a club he was too comfortable in, surrounding by the wrong people.
He said: “I needed the penny to drop, and that meant leaving the cocoon. I felt the need to leave, to discover a new environment, a new culture. Today, the question around me isn’t football, it’s the entourage. It’s what I do outside of training. I need to be alone, only think about football and to not get distracted with what happens around football.”
Making his debut with Southampton’s U23s at the weekend and keeping a clean sheet against Leicester, Hassen is keen to show everyone what he can do: “It’s up to me to go find time on the pitch, the coach hasn’t guaranteed me anything”.