“Hannibal ad Portas” – the Latin sentence, meaning imminent danger in colloquial language, uttered with horror the inhabitants of the capital of the republic in 216 BC. Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader whose armies decimated the Roman legions, stood at the city’s gates. Now, at the gates of Doha, the capital of Qatar, stands another Hannibal. Forced. The 19-year-old has impressed academy coaches in Paris, Monaco and Manchester. Here he comes, dressed in the Tunisian colors, although he was born in the football suburbs of the French capital and grew up in the same academy as Kylian Mbappe.
When, a year and a half ago, he decided to represent his parents’ country, madness broke out in Tunisia. In Tunisia, the capital of the country, just ten kilometers from the former Carthage, the city of Hannibal, among the ruins of the ancient theater, the federation organized a special welcome. He recalled climates of war with music and flames everywhere. It was supposed to be dark and sublime. The play of lights lasted several tens of seconds, until finally the gates opened and a slightly frightened eighteen-year-old appeared on the stage. Tunisia wanted a superstar, and he already had everything to become one. Still a fledgling, he’s used to playing senior matches alongside Birmingham City’s Christian Bielik, but he’s already igniting the imagination of fans who want to get out of the World Cup group for the first time in history.
Since his arrival in Tunisia, fans He is waiting for me everywhere. something amazing. I want my name, Hannibal, associated with Carthage, to also go down in the history of Tunisian football by winning the title with the national team.”
The madness has been going on since he was 9 years old. At 14, it cost a million. A year later, it had multiplied tenfold
His name lets marketers go wild. Birmingham City, which he joined in the summer on loan Manchester UnitedHannibal Lecter is found in his cell by FBI agent Clarice Starling, who stands still and calmly asks for his ID. In the Championship Club version, the agent finds Hannibal Mejbri in the dungeon, of course. With his brand of luxury Leeds United fans mocked and derided him, but that made him easy to remember. It may seem trivial, but the previous African Cup of Nations had its face in Tunisia, although it was mainly a substitute. He has a high contract with Adidas and a few other companies, not the most experienced representatives.
But there is something else outside the PR package. A very big talent that has already allowed him to play three matches for Manchester United and eighteen matches for the Tunisian national team. Since this summer, he has been gaining experience in the tournament, he has been praised by journalists and experts, he has quickly gained the respect of the fans, and despite the madness surrounding him, he seems to have a well-organized mentality. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick praised him, and accepted him too Paul ScholesNikki Butt and Gary Neville. But even before Manchester, where he did not appear, I predicted his career.
It began in Paris, not far from his home country. Later on, he was at Clairefontaine, a French academy that already had several French internationals out of, with Mbappe at the helm. Majbri followed in his footsteps to Monaco, who paid him €1 million. He was 15 years old at that time and was already known to all the directors of the largest academies in the world. Arsenal had long invited him for summer training, and it was rumored that Hannibal’s father had signed a preliminary agreement with the club that as soon as his son turns 16, he will move to London. Paris Saint-Germain also wanted him, but his father revealed that Hannibal considered the club soulless. Liverpool, Manchester City and Barcelona also suffered. Manchester United paid Monaco 10 million euros to get him.
Even before the transfer, the father, during an hour and a half conversation with a journalist from “Le Parisien”, received four calls from football agents who wanted to mediate the deal or even represent his son. He’s used to it now. They’ve been ringing like this since Hannibal was nine and Paris started whispering that another diamond was being polished in the suburbs. The father resisted for a long time, imagining that the younger son would follow the path of the elder and also become a doctor. But Hannibal only had surgical precision in his feet. Eventually, he was taken to Manchester by Jorge Mendes, one of the sharks in this business, with interests to take care of, among other things, Cristiano RonaldoJose Mourinho and Darwin Nunez.
He had to play with the adults. His peers wanted to break his legs
At United’s academy, they were quickly hailing him as one of their greatest talents. In 43 games with the reserves, he scored five goals and provided 16 assists while playing as a midfielder. The trainers huffed and puffed. They decided it would be best to get him to the seniors as soon as possible, because his peers kicked him so mercilessly. He was outstanding and mistakes were often the only way to stop him. Coach Neil Wood was furious about this: “It’s frustrating that he gets fouled 15 times a game. If the umpires don’t protect him, somebody’s going to break his leg in the end.” In adult football, at least it wasn’t a goal. It may have jumped too quickly, but at least no one had time to seriously damage it. Hence the loan to Birmingham, revealing the championship. At United, he still lacked skill and experience, and was too good for junior football. However, at the back of the Premier League he does not play directly behind the striker, he is more of a defensive midfielder. He still has a great technique, but he’s also starting to drudge the ball away. She’s not a starlet who doesn’t want her shorts dirty with interference.
– Fabulous. He broke all club records when it came to distance covered. He plays on the edge of endurance, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get so tired. Bringing his personality to the pitch, he’s a phenomenon. I don’t want to change anything about it, it will get better with experience. You tell him something and he puts a thumbs up. “Sure, no problem,” Birmingham City Manager John Eustace said, full of compliments. It is Majbri’s personality that most coaches are interested in. It is a broad term without a single definition. He got the ball and from then on I just wanted to look at him,” says Reza Bakhti, a coach and scout who has been collecting pearls from the Parisian suburbs for years. Sticky legs, thick hair and excellent technique. Hannibal was eight. The rest of the boys were older, And he was smart and witty anyway. There was something magnetic about him.” And then they got to know each other better, and Bakhti began to admire his perseverance and thirst for knowledge. He wanted to master every exercise to perfection. He didn’t leave the field if he didn’t do the job perfectly. He says he tried to succeed.
This has not changed. A few months ago, Majbri spoke with boyish passion and admiration, but also with charming intimidation, about training with Cristiano Ronaldo. – I watch everything he does. He is the hardest working player in the world. I watch what he drinks. I check his plate and serve myself the same way. Recently, I saw that she was taking a bath, so I asked why she was doing that. Tell me it’s about vitamins. Since that day, I have also been exposed to the sun, – he said with a smile in an interview with “Onze Mundial”. – He’s a great friend, always giving you advice, but at first I was reluctant to ask for it from an early age, so I didn’t know how to talk to him, how to talk to him, what to ask. At first, just being with him was enough for me, – he admitted.
“When you start arguing with him, you forget he’s only 19.”
Mohamed Slim Ben Othman, the sporting director of the Tunisian Federation, was instrumental in persuading Mejbri to represent Tunisia as an adult and end his career in the French youth squad. He traveled to Paris for half a year, persuaded, drew up plans, talked with Hannibal’s father and brother, and only in the end with himself. When you start arguing with him, you forget he’s only 19. He is mature, calm, asks the right questions, and listens. We know each other so well that I treat him like a little brother and I am sure he will be a key Tunisian player for many years to come.” – He can play many positions in midfield. He started as an attacking midfielder. Number ten, but at Birmingham he is often number eight “He plays from box to box, he has a lot of freedom. He likes to play like that and have as much impact on the team as possible.” Mejbri is compared differently – most often with Paul Pogba, for a certain carelessness in driving the ball and for a great overview of the field. But perhaps it would be more appropriate to compare her to Luka Modric. Different level but similar movements and style. He always plays at 100 km/h. Run across the field. Whatever he does, he does it fast,” describes Nicky Butt, former Manchester United footballer and most recently Academy Coordinator.
– His fans in Tunisia immediately fell in love with him, because from the first matches He plays with passion. Ben Othman says he sacrifices himself in every game. “But in his case, you can’t just talk about football. He has an impact on Tunisia that goes beyond the field. We needed a player who would be in a big club, Manchester United have a lot of fans here, and he would set an example for young people so that he deserves to coach. Our nation needs an idol, and he has.” It happens someday, he claims.
– My choice may have surprised many people, but it is a choice of the heart, so you can’t argue with it. It’s nice to play for Tunisia. I am not saying that France is not my country at all, but when I play for Tunisia I feel something special. In the Africa Cup of Nations, I felt like the whole nation was behind us.
Tunisia did not leave the group in any of its recent participation in the World Cup. Only Australia and Saudi Arabia have a higher failure rate than Tunisia at 60%. They have kept clean sheets in just one of their last 15 World Cup matches – against Germany in 1978. Mejbri is the hope for change, indeed, in the coming years, not in Qatar.
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