We know the reputation. The senior club’s training center has seen some of the most prominent players on the current European scene pass through its ranks: Édouard, Benjamin and Ferland Mendy, Steve Mandanda, Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez … all have attended the Havre Athletic Club. For three years, Ilyes Benlebsir, a 16-year-old right-handed midfielder, has been walking the ten-minute walk that separates the family home from La Cavée Verte, a sky and sea nursery. His routine is to arrive first for training.
Enrolled in the general section of high school, this hardworking, NBA fan, is of the placid kind. Few friends, lonely, the slender boy (1m82, 70 kg), who has always had a head taller than the others, is focused on one thing: football. With one idea in mind: to live off your passion. To realize his dream, two characters inspire him: Ruud Gullit, ballon d’or 1987, legend of AC Milan and the Oranjes, but also Cristiano Ronaldo, who is no longer presented, whose posters cover the walls of his bedroom. Example of hard work.
Impressive maturity for its age
Ilyes, Grégory Duval knew him well. “He spent two years with us from 2016 to 2018. He came from a club in the Mont-Gaillard district and he already had an athletic maturity which meant that he was upgraded to U14”, remembers the sports coordinator of the Club des Municipaux du Havre. The employee of the HAC partner club – where Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, Edouard Mendy or Alimami Gory have evolved – remembers a relay medium capable of going forward, in pure box-to-box style , with an above-average technical quality.
“He had a very interesting ball-foot relationship. Even though he was outclassed, he was more interesting than some players of the upper generation, capable of playing in eleven-a-side football, when he was old enough to play in eight-a-side football ”. The educator also praises the personality of Ilyes Benlebsir, “The type of player who came all the time before sessions, and was the last to go. A fan. A very respectful young person, a very pleasant person at work and to develop ”. Wake up 6 a.m., go to bed 9 p.m., diet, additional sessions. A life of an ascetic.
Europe has its eyes on him
Determined, dreams of the Champions League in his head, Ilyes Benlebsir had been spotted by Paris Saint-Germain after a recital during a test in Le Havre (5-1, treble), at the time when François Rodrigues – now technical director of the training center in Le Havre – officiated there. But it was at HAC that he chose to complete his training. Always outclassed, he is this season holder in National U17 and joined the U19 group for a few months. If he continues in this direction, he should join the reserve team next year.
Followed since he was 14 by PSG, he has, through his performances in international tournaments, attracted the attention of European scouts. In England and Italy, we have already made inquiries. In France, the LOSC and the Girondins de Bordeaux follow him, in the Netherlands the PSV has also manifested itself … Like the great Sarcellois hope Mathys Tel, the Norman number 8, who discovered the team of France this year (U16, 2 assists in 30 minutes of play for its 1st selection), seems programmed to succeed. At HAC, where he dreams of making his professional debut, then in Europe. In the footsteps of his idols.