The most promising Moroccan talent in recent years (as one newspaper in the North African country wrote of him just last month) will be in Vigo on Wednesday night with Real Madrid.
That is because Zinedine Zidane has called young Castilla right-back, Achraf Hakimi (born: Madrid, 4-11-1998), to his Copa del Rey quarter final 2nd leg squad to face Celta as the Frenchman’s side continues to be plagued by injuries.
"Problems at fullback? Achraf”
The 18-year old – one of the brightest prospects from Madrid’s La Fabrica – is rapid, and particularly known for his Dani Carvajal style overlapping runs down the flank (he used to be a winger).
Zidane, who coached him during his time as manager of Madrid’s reserves, isn’t his only admirer. Ramis, another ex-Castilla coach, tweeted recently: "Problems at fullback? Achraf”.
Arra, as he is nicknamed, grew up in the concrete jungle barrio of Getafe on the outskirts of Madrid. After being picked up by Madrid’s youth academy, he had not yet given any thought on if he’d represent the country of his birth, or the country of his parentage. However, when still not even old enough to vote or drive, Morocco coach Hervé Renard called him in March 2016 to avoid a repeat of losing (Barcelona’s) Munir to the Spain national setup.
While he didn’t make his debut on that occasion, he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to win his first international cap, doing so aged 17 years, 11 months on October 11th 2016 against Canada in Marrakech, becoming the first ever Real Madrid product to play for Morocco in the process.
Curiously, the signing of Achraf was one of the cases that provoked FIFA to impose the ongoing transfer sanction over the club’s enlistment of foreign minors, even though he was born in Madrid (his parents Hassan and Saida emigrated to Spain from Morocco).
Confidence in Achraf, at Real Madrid since the age of eight, is nothing new. Zidane took him on the summer tour to North America last year, where the youngster made his first team debut in the friendly with PSG. On Wednesday, Achraf has a chance to further his budding reputation at Balaidos.