By all accounts, Manchester City starlet Brahim Díaz will arrive at the Spanish capital in the coming weeks. The rumored transfer fee is currently hovering around €15 million and the player could receive around €3.5 million a year in wages.
These aren’t large amounts, which perhaps explains why Madrid have seemingly decided to sign this kid out of nowhere. But that’s only part of the equation, as Real’s scouts would’ve also had to have seen some sizable talent to have sanctioned a signing.
That’s why I decided to delve into the match footage to see what was so special about this kid. But, given that I was aiming to compile my report across the span of several days, instead of several weeks, I had to limit the amount of matches I watched.
I only looked at official games from 2018 that were available on Wyscout’s database. That meant excluding the three International Champions Cup friendlies in late July, as these types of encounters lack the competitiveness and overall fitness levels to be truly revealing.
That amounts to fifteen different matches — from the Manchester City first team to the U19 level for both club and country — I viewed or parsed rigorously. While I think that’s enough to get a good idea of any player, it’s certainly not exhaustive and immune to over-generalizations. Thus, you should probably keep that in mind when reading through this article.
Beyond self-enforced limitations, there is also barely any publicly available data on Brahim Díaz. So everything that follows is based purely on my eye-test.
- Full name: Brahim Abdelkader Díaz
- Date of birth: August 3, 1999
- Age: 19
- Nationality: Spanish
- Height: 5′ 7″ (170 cm)
- Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
- Current team: Manchester City
- Best positions: central attacking midfield, right-wing, left-wing
Even before watching footage of Díaz, I understood that his dribbling skill was supposed to be special. So that is what I investigated first, and I must admit, I struggled to see what the hype was about in the beginning.
Especially in his limited minutes for the senior team, it was far more common to see him losing the ball instead of beating opposing players. A big part of this is down to his diminutive stature, which sees him being consistently outmuscled when trying to take on bigger opponents.
Not only does he struggle to handle shoulder checks and slight shoves, but he sometimes simply bounces off players when making only slight contact in fifty-fifty duels.
Another issue is the way he dribbles. Díaz is an extremely positive player who always wants to make something happen. Instead of looking to protect the ball when necessary, he is always trying to put himself in a position to burst past opponents. While this is an admirable trait, it leads him to attempt take-ons that show far too much of the ball to the defender.
However, every so often, he does things that make you sit up in your seat and take notice.
His positive and aggressive attitude on the ball can lead to spectacular results when everything comes together. He possesses a great change of pace and a sizable amount of skill that can generate excellent attacking situations out of virtually nothing.
Unsurprisingly, most of his best dribbling sequences came in U19 games for Manchester City and the Spanish National Team, where he was given more game time and faced less physically developed players.
Presumably, this is the potential that Real Madrid are looking to maximize the most when Díaz eventually arrives at the Bernabéu.
Brahim Díaz’s desire to be proactive is even more evident when he looks to attack without dribbling.
As can be seen in the clip above, he loves to initiate one-two passing combinations with other players. Occasionally, he can be a bit overeager in his endeavors, leading to situations where his teammates aren’t on the same wavelength and possession is lost.
But like with his dribbling, it collapses defensive structures and produces magic out of thin air when it comes off.
In my preliminary research, I came across this MARCA article about Brahim. In it, the author wrote: “Brahim Abdelkader Diaz always hesitates when choosing his favored foot to touch the ball,” to emphasize just how ambidextrous the player is.
Again, I initially struggled to see the validity of the bold claim. In the first few games I watched, it appeared that Díaz’s left foot was the stronger one, since that was the foot that dominated his dribbling actions.
I did notice a great willingness to shoot and cross with his right, but many of those connections were unsatisfactory. It sometimes looked like he was trying to shove the ball rather than attempting to connect smoothly with his right foot. Other times, he met the ball cleanly and with confidence, though it didn’t happen frequently enough for me to be totally convinced.
Then, I watched his U19 games and saw him attempt all of his corners and penalties with his right foot. Again, if I’m being completely honest, a lot of his corners were unimpressive, but I made a compilation of every one I saw so you can be the judge instead:
His penalties weren’t much better, though that probably has more to do with the fact that his routine and shot placement were the exact same every time.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Brahim Díaz is more two-footed than the average player. The fact that he takes all his set-pieces with his right and likes to shoot with his right, while dribbling with his left, proves this.
Nevertheless, I think the MARCA article was exaggerating a little bit when it said that “it is practically impossible to tell” which is his stronger foot when watching him play. In the future, that claim will probably be accurate, as his willingness to use both feet means that he will likely rack up the reps to become elite in that category. But for now, he still has some work to do.
Passing Ability and Vision
If Díaz’s dribbling is what appears special, his passing and vision is what looks decidedly more average. In the 15 games I pored through, I didn’t spot one truly remarkable pass or a demonstration of an exceptional ability to see the field. In fact, in some moments, it looked like he needed to work on the quality of his penetrative balls.
But mostly, Díaz completes passes you’d expect him to and makes good decisions. He generally finds open runners with the quickness of a more mature player and is fully capable of playing accurate through balls when given time to evaluate his surroundings.
Brahim possesses great versatility; he can play, and has played, on both wings and as a number ten.
From wide areas, it appears that he loves to attack the box (it is worth noting that all of the examples below are from the Manchester City senior team, where it is standard fare for a Pep Guardiola wide player to get on the end of crosses at the far post).
That is how Díaz scored his two goals vs. Fulham, where he displayed his good sense of timing and space investigation. If developed further, this trait could quickly become a real goal scoring asset for good crossing sides.
When playing as a central attacking midfielder for the Spanish national team, Díaz is just as comfortable taking up positions between the lines. He knows where to move in order to create passing angles for his teammates and always receives on the half-turn so that he faces goal after a single touch.
Thankfully, Díaz doesn’t seem to be one of those attacking talents that thinks defensive work is above him. He presses eagerly and happily launches himself into tackles.
Unfortunately, much of his hard work is limited by his lack of strength and size. He struggles to complete his challenges and finds it difficult to ward off his opponent and keep possession even when winning the initial tackle.
While Díaz’s lack of physicality is his biggest weakness — since it affects his dribbling and defending — it is also his most fixable problem. Though he probably won’t grow much taller, a few summers in the gym should change things significantly for him.
Brahim Díaz is a pretty rough product at the moment. His impulse is to force attacking actions at every opportunity, which leads to lots of unnecessary losses of possession. He also hasn’t developed physically like some of the other talents at his age, meaning he isn’t well prepared for the fifty-fifty duel his style of play constantly creates.
If his passing and playmaking was stronger, he could maintain a sizable amount of influence regardless of these issues. But his current attacking game revolves heavily around driving at opponents and initiating combinations.
On the flip side, there is a clear view of what his potential could be if he could successfully polish his game. His dribbling is frankly breathtaking when successful, he is brave, he is willing to do dirty defensive duties, he is unafraid to use both feet, and shows a more than adequate grasp of basic off-ball positioning.
The real question isn’t whether he’s a good talent, but whether he will be able to develop fast enough to make it in an environment as unforgiving as Real Madrid.