To play for Real Madrid’s first team you don’t have to be just a special player, you have to be ‘Galactico’material, as you would be filling the shoes and jersey numbers of some legendary players who have been adored by fans globally.
Achraf Hakimi at just 18, is only the third Moroccan in the history of Real Madrid, [after Heliodoro Castaño Pedrosa (1955-56) and José Luis López Peinado (1967-76)], earned his chance very early on, in his career to represent Real Madrid. Maybe Dani Carvajal’s unfortunate illness and the fact that he’s the only backup after Danilo was sold to Manchester City in the summer helped Achraf find a spot in Real Madrid’s lineup.
But the question has to be asked, would Zidane have given him a chance if he didn’t see something special in the youngster? The answer to that question is – no.
Born in Madrid to Moroccan parents, Achraf started his footballing career with Deportivo Colonia Ofigevi in Getafe, then joined Real Madrid’s Benjamin B team at age 8 and progressed in La Fabrica until he moved to Real Madrid Castilla where he played 28 Matches where he had eight assists and scored one goal.
In 2016 he participated in the UEFA Youth League with Real Madrid where he made 10 appearances playing 864 minutes in total before his team were eliminated in the semifinals, scored two goals and made one assist before he got the call from Zidane to join the first team’s US preseason tour where he seemed to have impressed his manager enough to be officially named a first team player before the start of this 2017/18 season.
Achraf was meant to be one of Real Madrid’s reserve players, take on a small role as Carvajal’s backup but the viral pericardium infection the Spanish right back suffered from put Achraf on top of Zidane’s list and gave him his golden ticket to feature for the Champions League champions.
Achraf, who took on Modric’s former jersey number 19 after the Croatian midfielder changed to number 10, made his official debut with Real Madrid’s first team on October 1st against Espanyol in which the Merengues won 2-0. He not only started the match but also played the full 90 minutes. The academy graduate couldn’t hide his happiness after the game: “I’m delighted to have made my debut for the best club in the world, it’s a day I’ll never forget.”
The Frenchman who coached Achraf during his time as manager of Real Madrid Castilla was all praise for the Moroccan International after his first game: “Achraf was so involved and he didn’t give the impression that he was having his first game, he did spectacularly well.”
Zidane once more proved that he was not afraid to trust the young player and called on him for the Champions League match against Tottenham were he made the starting eleven and played the full match.
Against Tottenham, Achraf ran 10,674 meters, won the ball 4 times, made 2 clearances and completed 84% of his passes. Not too shabby statistics for a player who just started playing with the big boys.
After the game Achraf was quick to show his gratitude towards his coach: “I’m thrilled to be playing in one of the best competitions in the world and that the coach has shown faith in me”.
However Achraf is no stranger to playing ‘high stake’ games as the Moroccan National Team coach Hervé Renard called on the right back in 2016 to help convince him to join his ranks, as Hakimi had not yet decided whether he wanted to play for his birth country Spain or for his country of origins Morocco. Achraf went on to play with the Moroccan National team on four occasions where he scored once in Morocco’s road to earning a ticket to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and being named “The most promising Moroccan talent of 2016.”
No doubt that for a young player like Achraf Hakimi in the beginning of his career, just the opportunity to train every day and share the locker room with some of the greatest players in the world like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos… is a learning experience in itself and something any upcoming footballer would be grateful to have.
But as Hakimi’s contract with Real Madrid nears it’s end in June 2018, will the European champions decide to renew their faith in him by keeping him amongst its ranks, sell him to another club or choose to loan him as they did with Carvajal who after a year with Leverkusen returned a confident player who is now considered one of the best in his position.
At only 18 years of age, Achraf could have a bright future ahead of him,moldedby the greatfootballer and now manager, Zidane who can guide him and help pave the way for the youngster to a successful and long career.