The hero of Morocco was born in Madrid, learned everything at Real, but his Panenka plunged Spain into grief

After the Spaniards’ third penalty miss, Morocco had two more to beat. Achraf Hakimi got behind the ball and sent it into the net with exceptional finesse – a header, a goal and qualification for the African team in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

For Spain, dropping out of the World Cup in Qatar is extremely dramatic. Not just because he lost to Morocco, but because for the second time in a row the World Cup was eliminated at the round of 16 and again after penalty kicks – four years ago, the host Russia kicked out “la furia”.

It became even more painful for the Spaniards when it was Hakimi who decided their fate. The full-back was born in Madrid and grew up in Real Madrid’s academy, where he was groomed for big football. But he never found his place at the Santiago Bernabeu, after which he shone with the teams of Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Photo: Getty Images

Ashraf was born in Getafe to a family of Moroccan immigrants. His mother cleans houses while his father sells various trinkets on the street. His mother is not thrilled with her son’s desire to become a footballer. He enrolls him in judo and swimming, but the boy only thinks about the ball.

When he was 8, Hakimi began training at Real Madrid’s academy. Ashraf trained at the “Factory” for ten years, during which he trained alongside Zinedine Zidane’s sons: Luca and Enzo.

He made his debut for the first team of the “Kings” precisely under the leadership of Zizu in 2017. At that time, however, Dani Carvajal occupied the right defensive zone and Hakimi had no chance of starting. In his first season at Real, Hakimi made 17 appearances, but then moved to Borussia on a two-year loan.

“When the offer came from Borussia, I didn’t think for a second. For me, this is a very big club with serious traditions – explains Hakimi. – I had also heard about the “Yellow Wall” (the sector with the loudest supporters of Dortmund – b.a .) and I wanted to experience the atmosphere it creates in the stadium.”

The Moroccan “exploded” already in his first campaign in yellow and black. Hakimi missed just one Bundesliga game due to yellow card accumulation, netting nine goals and ten assists in a total of 45 matches in all competitions.

And here comes the reasonable question – how did Real lose such a player?

The truth is that with the presence of Dani Carvajal, Hakimi simply had no way of playing a key role at Real. The Moroccan wanted to be a starter – something that Zidane could not guarantee him, which is why he left.

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After the two-year loan in Dortmund came the transfer to Inter. The key figure in the deal was Antonio Conte. The Italian specialist has convinced Hakimi that he will give him a starting place, and in a system of play that suits him best – with three central defenders and two wing-backs. With her, Hakimi would be able to “fly” freely along the entire length of the right flank.

Bayern Munich also had a serious interest in him, but the 4-3-3 formation did not suit Hakimi. In addition, Milan offered him a salary of five million euros a year – something that Real were not prepared to spend on Carvajal’s reserve. And finally – the price of 43 million euros convinced the “Bernabeu” bosses to sell him to Milan.

With the Nerazzurri, the Moroccan became the Serie A champion and after just one season, PSG paid 68 million euros for him.

In the national team, the story is a bit more complicated. Hakimi made his debut for Morocco at the age of 17, only after he felt that he would not feel at home in the Spanish national team.

Photo: Getty Images

Ashraf Hakimi’s “Panenka” with which he placed Morocco in the historic 1/4-final of the world championships

“We had talks even at the junior level, I myself was ready to try out in Spain – explained Hakimi shortly before the round of 16 clash with Spain in Qatar. – I didn’t feel at home. I refused the offer because of my feelings. I realized that the Moroccan culture is much more for me it fits and that’s why I chose Morocco.”

And he made the right choice. And thanks to him, Morocco is now in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, while the Spaniards had to pack their bags for home sooner rather than later.

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