At the age of 17 Nordin Amrabat was helping clean floors at a school and learning how to make desserts. Being a professional footballer seemed nothing more than a distant dream.

That’s because four years earlier Watford's new signing had been let go by Ajax.

Amrabat had suffered growth problems in his final season with the club and his development had been stunted.

“It was Osgood–Schlatters,” Amrabat says as he reflects on being released as a 13-year-old.

“It meant I had problems growing. So I was on the bench a lot. Also that year I was late back from my holidays.

“We went with the family to Morocco and I was two weeks late coming back. So the whole season was difficult. At the end of it they sent me away.”

Far from being bitter about the decision Amrabat moved on. He turned down the chance to join Vitesse Arnhem because it would’ve meant moving away from his family. He opted to play amateur football.

“My father told me it was better to play amateur and to do well at school. He said if I was good enough at football it would happen for me.”

Wise words indeed. But they would take time to come to fruition.

Meanwhile, Amrabat worked hard at school and simply enjoyed playing football with his friends.

At 16 he took a job washing dishes in a restaurant to earn some money.

A beaming smile breaks out across the now 28-year-old’s face when he reflects on earning a promotion.

“After a year and a half at the restaurant washing dishes I was promoted to making desserts,” he says.

“I also had a job at a school where I would spend two hours a morning cleaning the floors with a hoover. But that quickly stopped because it was interfering with school.

“But two days a week I’d be playing football. Two days I’d be in the restaurant. And I’d also have school.”

Amrabat was playing for amateur side SV Huizen in Almere, a city not too far outside of Amsterdam.

He enjoyed his football but was planning a life outside of the game.

“When I was 17 I chose a management, economics and law course,” he says.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do so it gave me options. I thought I would go on to university after that and then I would specialise in what I wanted to do.”

But just as Amrabat thought he had the next few years of his life worked out he was spotted by then Dutch second division side Omniworld.

He joined the club but stayed only one season. The winger ended the campaign with 14 goals and 14 assists in 36 games.

He joined VVV Venlo, who had just won promotion to the Eredivisie, in the summer of 2007. At the age of 19 Amrabat was finally a professional footballer.

His career quickly snowballed. In his sole season with Venlo Amrabat netted ten goals in 33 matches.

His form caught the attention of then Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven who signed him for just over two million euros.

That season he played against Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield.

In the space of two and a half years Amrabat’s life had completely changed.

“If you work hard you never know what can happen,” Watford’s new number 11 says simply. "I work hard and we’ll see where it goes.

"In two years I went from amateur football to the Champions League against Liverpool at Anfield.

“Becoming a professional at 19 helped me to be a normal person and be happy with what I have.

"I respect everybody whether they are a cleaner, a doctor or a footballer. You need to respect everyone. It helped me stay grounded.”

Amrabat would stay three years at PSV before moving to Turkey and joining Kayserispor.

After one season with the club he would join Galatasaray and walked into a dressing room that contained Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder.

“It was great to play with them and just to be in the same dressing room as them.

"They are my friends. I am still in contact with them. It was a good time for me.”

Amrabat, partly due to not having a run in the side, never produced his best form for Galatasaray. Eighteen months after joining the Turkish giants he left on loan for Malaga.

He would eventually sign permanently for the La Liga club last summer and thrived during the opening months of this season.

It’s what attracted Watford’s attention. Amrabat is a direct dribbler and someone who can cause defences several problems.

He is also not afraid to gets his hands dirty. Amrabat will not shirk his defensive duties and isn’t afraid to put in a tackle. His disciplinary record proves that.

During his time in Spain Amrabat was booked 14 times and sent off twice. Although he partly puts that down to misfortune.

“The problem is when you’re an attacker and you make a foul referees give you a yellow card,” he explains.

“Sometimes defenders make crazy tackles. Yet me, I touch them a little bit and I get a yellow.

“In one of my last games [for Malaga] the ball bounced between me and the defender and because he fell and I didn't I was given a yellow. In Spain referees give fast yellow cards. In England it is different.”

But what about those two red cards, the first of which was for dissent in a game against Villereal in April 2014?

“The defenders were kicking me the whole game and the referee gave nothing,” he says with a smile.

“Then a defender kicked me from behind. It was a foul and yellow card. I said to him [the referee] 'you need glasses' and made a gesture.

“He didn't see me. So I did it again. But as I did it two times I got a red card and was suspended for two games. That's Spain, hey?”

Amrabat didn't have time to get into any trouble or even touch the ball on his Hornets debut on Saturday. 

He played the final two minutes of Watford's 2-1 win over Newcastle United but, given his career trajectory over the past decade, it won't be long until he makes an impact in a Hornet shirt.