Anything can change until August 31st, but it looks like Achraf Hakimi has earned a place in Zinedine Zidane’s first team squad. The official squad list was released by Real Madrid and the new #19 will be the young 18-year-old Moroccan. A gaping whole has been left in the squad since the departure of Danilo to Manchester City, but Zidane and his staff have decided to promote from within and give the former academy youngster a chance.
Other contenders for the position included names like Odriozola, Thomas Meunier, or Madrid’s own Nacho, and academy product Alvaro Tejero. Achraf impressed enough in his Castilla season last year along with solid performances against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, and the MLS All-stars in pre-season. Those who have been tracking the young Moroccans progress are quick to point out his change of pace, his ability to beat a man 1v1 and get a good cross in, as well as his anticipation and reading of the game at such a young age.
He is still very raw at 18, but the step up will be made. Zidane is proving he trusts the academy and will use the academy to solve first-team problems. The question still lingers, will Achraf get significant minutes? Or if Carvajal is down, will Nacho and Theo be the first options to play at right back? Zidane has been vocal in the past that all members of his squad will get their chance and he has proven so with last year’s rotations. The Frenchman has also stressed the importance of playing and growing while at a young age. He will not want to stunt the growth of Achraf. The question for some skeptics may be, if an injury crisis hit the backline, what type of performances would come from the Moroccan in say a Champion’s League semi-final away at the Calderon? These are the types of questions Achraf may have the chance to answer this season. For fans, it is the first Cantera promoted since the likes of Jese, Casemiro, and Morata during Ancelotti’s debut season in 2013-2014. There is always something special about a player earning his way through the clubs youth system, hopefully Achraf will prove he is here to stay.