Achraf Hakimi

Who is Real Madrid teenager Achraf Hakimi?

Isco may have been Real Madrid’s star performer against Espanyol at the weekend. Yet, the spotlight was certainly not about the Spaniard but an unusual name in Los Blancos‘ first team; Achraf Hakimi.

Real’s resolve to allow Danilo join Manchester City in the summer raised some eyebrows and caused panic amongst fans. Perhaps the bigger shock was the club’s blatant refusal to reinvest all or at least part of the £26.9m recouped from his sale. Leaving the Galacticos vulnerable at the right; without any recognized backup for Dani Carvajal.

But now we grasp exactly why, Zinedine Zidane all along, played his cards close to his chest. None other than Achraf Hakimi was behind that bold step. And not only was the highly-rated 18-year-old perceived as the deputy to Carvajal but his eventual heir. No wonder he got his first senior start barely six weeks into the new campaign with his more-experienced teammate ill-stricken.

And it was obviously a memorable debut for not just Achraf but the entire Arab world. As you’d expect, the youngster put in a solid shift at the Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid ran out 2-nil winners. However, that singular display was enough to break new ground at the club, as he thus becomes their first Arabic player.

Born in Madrid to parents of Moroccan descent, Achraf joined the club’s youth setup in 2006, from CD Colonia Ofigevi, aged eight. The promising star progressed superbly through the youth ranks, before being promoted to the reserves last year. At the Castilla side, Achraf was exceptional, playing 28 times with one goal.

Considered the complete package, the 18-year-old offers similar quality in attack and defence. His lightning pace, incredible runs and technical abilities make him a handful for teams. Additionally, he never seems to get his crosses wrong. Capable of high, swinging deliveries or dangerous, whipped low balls into the box.

With such remarkable attributes, it was only a matter of time before Zidane’s team comes calling. It eventually happened in the summer. Achraf was promoted to Madrid’s senior squad to take part in the International Champions Cup and appeared against Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain among others.

How did he fare on his debut?

When many youngsters would have been overwhelmed, Achraf never put a foot wrong in his first start. He was full of energy, no doubt aided by the adrenaline a teenager would benefit from when making his debut for Madrid in front of a packed Bernabeu. However, the 18-year-old’s confidence was palpable as he overlapped on the right side at every opportunity, never hesitating to join the attack.

What was equally impressive though was his desire to get back into position at pace. Every time the hosts lost possession, the full-back was seen sprinting in the opposite direction and was never caught out. When receiving possession in the final third, Achraf always backed himself in a one-on-one, opting to take on the defender instead of choosing the safe pass or an early cross into the box.

He would’ve dreamed of linking up with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of all-time, and he did so on one occasion when his delightful ball over the top found the Portuguese inside the area only for his touch to let him down.

What does Zidane think of him?

Zidane, himself of Arab descent, thinks highly of the lad who has already been capped thrice by Morocco.

“Achraf was so involved that he didn’t give the sensation he was having his first game, he did spectacularly well. If Dani is not with us, Achraf is the second fullback and will play.”

Don’t be surprised to see more of the teenager in the coming weeks judging by Zidane’s assertions.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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