Rabie Takassa will long remember his summer 2018. If this scout of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) in Spain logically shares most of his time on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, this time it is the stands of Russia he walks. To see the Atlas Lions compete in the World Cup, of course, but in particular one of them: Achraf Hakimi. Five years earlier, Rabie was still employed in a computer company and was killing time by watching with a loving eye the Moroccan players who played in the four corners of Europe. « I consider them as ambassadors of Morocco » , he justifies. It was at this moment that he heard about this right side with a velvet foot and inexhaustible breath, who then officiated for the young people of Real Madrid. Love at first sight is immediate. “I decided to go meet him in Spain, and I told him about the Moroccan national team, the U17s at the time. I was not yet working for the federation, but I had contacts there. So I told them about Ashraf. » A kid with whom he had fixed his first dates when he had 15 pegs on the clock, without imagining that they would lead them here. “To see a player that you started to follow from a young age at the World Cup, to see him defend the colors of your country … it’s an exceptional feeling. »
Moroccan by blood, Spanish by soil
At only 22 years old, not content with having already played in a World Cup with his country, Achraf Hakimi has already defended the colors of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and, since this summer, Paris Saint- Germain. A globetrotting itinerary written in his DNA: Moroccan in jersey, Achraf Hakimi is nevertheless a true Spaniard of the soil. Born in Madrid on November 4, 1998, which makes him the eldest of his new best friend Kylian Mbappé only about fifty days old, little Achraf lived all the beginning of his life on the other side of the Pyrenees. . This is where his parents, both Moroccans, migrated in the early 1990s. The father is an itinerant seller in markets, the mother does odd domestic chores with Spanish families. At home, with his parents, his brother and his sister, the young Ashraf stammers an Arab that he has, according to Takassa, « Hard to capture » . He feels more comfortable chatting in Spanish, especially on a football pitch.
“Being a little simplistic, I would say that Ashraf only likes to attack. It is the Spanish spirit. » Herve Renard
Real Madrid player since his schoolyard years, he played for all the youth teams before joining Castilla in 2016. “He was the youngest of the group, but on the pitch, we were far from having that impression, remembers Nikólaos Vérgos, one of his classmates. When you are the youngest in a team like Castilla, but the coach puts you as team manager in training and makes you play every game, it means that he has detected something in you. in addition. » a » thing » which does not take long to become obvious: at his post, Achraf Hakimi is an arrow. Right side always, he is however the first offensive spearhead of his team. « By being a little simplistic, I would say that Ashraf only likes to attack, laughs his former coach Hervé Renard, who took a big affection for the boy during his time at the head of the Atlas Lions. He’s able to defend well, but that’s not his priority. What he wants is to attack, to attack, to attack. It is the Spanish spirit. »
Family photos, hundreds of messages and a little bomb
Despite the Hispanicness that Renard sees so clearly in his attraction to the opposing goal, Achraf Hakimi maintains a distant football relationship with Spain. With the selection, first, that he sweeps away with the back of his hand to represent his country of origin, even though he was not born there. In June 2013, a first meeting with the Moroccan U17s was missed, because Hakimi had school exams to pass at the time of the rally. It was not until 2015 that he honored his first selection with the green and red U20s. “Between 2013 and 2015, he sent me hundreds of messages asking me « When are they going to summon me? » Rabie Takassa remembers. He always wanted to represent Morocco. His family is Moroccan, his parents are very attached to Morocco and he is very attached to his family. » Níkos Vérgos even remembers a Hakimi who « Spent his time looking at family photos in the locker room, before training or games, before smiling to himself » . The choice is simple: it is that of the heart, and « His heart is Moroccan » , says Rabie Takassa, even if Spain tried to catch up with him before it was too late: “They called him up with the U18s, around 2017, remembers the scout. He made a match with them, he told me: « Just to try, see how it goes over there. » But afterwards, we had a good discussion with him, with Nasser Larguet (at the time national technical director of Morocco, editor’s note), and he decided to continue with Morocco. From his second internship, he was captain of the U20 … Spain contacted him again, but he systematically rejected their summons. »
“Between 2013 and 2015, he sent me hundreds of messages asking me: ‘When is Morocco going to summon me?’ » Rabie Takassa, scout who spotted Achraf Hakimi for Morocco
In selection, Hakimi rejects Spain. But in club, it is Spain who pushes him back. When Hervé Renard appealed for the first time to Hakimi with the A in the Moroccan selection in the fall of 2017, the kid has not even blown his nineteenth candle or honored his first professional cape with his training club. It must be said that at the time, the side posts, if he can evolve in both, are squatted at Real by Carvajal and Marcelo, at the top of their game. « I had called Zidane when he arrived, and he told me that despite his potential, he was still a little too early to play with them » , says Lucien Favre, his coach at Borussia Dortmund, who took advantage of it, since it is under his orders that Achraf Hakimi will explode during his loan at the Schwarz-Gelben between 2018 and 2020. With his Formula 1 speed launched in the middle of the straight, the young and bubbly Hakimi quickly fucks the aging Łukasz Piszczek, who has held the post for years. “He quickly established himself as a key player in the team, it was indisputable for us to play with him, details Favre. There were a few things to correct defensively, but that’s normal, he was 19! When I was 18, you shouldn’t talk to me about defense. (Laughs.) » The Swiss remembers in particular a particularly striking match against Inter, in the Champions League. Led 2-0 at the break, the BvB returns the Nerazzurri in the second period, in particular thanks to a double from his right side: “It was a bomb on the ground. He and Sancho made all the difference. When he’s confident like that, he’s unstoppable. »
The Conte school, goals and fake jerseys
In Germany, for two seasons, Achraf Hakimi complies with the defensive rigor of a Teutonic team which usually operates in a system with four defenders. Then, when the end of his loan comes and Real wants to capitalize on his crack, a world of opportunities opens up to him. And especially that of working with a man. “He asked me if Inter Milan was a good choice, replaces Hervé Renard. I told him : « Working with Antonio Conte is fabulous for you, he will help you progress on little things that you have not yet mastered to perfection. » I think that a year at the Conte school, it did him good. » The Italian technician and his love of pistons will remake Achraf Hakimi a formidable offensive weapon, on a right side that he knows like the back of his hand. “In my opinion, he had his best season last year at Inter and this ability to become an additional striker for his team has made a big difference in his development and for the eyes of his coach, analyzes his Greek friend Nikólaos Vérgos. His ability to score goals changed his career. » Besides, it’s something he never hid working. Hervé Renard remembers with a big smile: “At the end of training, when the attackers are working in front of goal, he always came and said: « Me, I am a striker, me! » (Laughs.) « Striker », with his Spanish accent! He’s there, and in all seriousness, he scores as much as the attackers. »
When he goes to look for him for 60 million euros in the offseason, Paris Saint-Germain knows that he holds Achraf Hakimi a rare commodity. Already because the world-class right-wingers don’t run the streets. Then, and above all, because he is a kid who, at 22, already speaks all football fluently, having drawn on very diverse experiences from Spain to Morocco, from Italy to Germany. « His speed makes him catch up a lot of defensive shots, but he’s going to have to be a little more rigorous, says Renard. He’s been very good attacking in a system with three center-backs, so if he manages to overpower with just two centers to cover his right flank, like he currently does in Ligue 1, he’ll become, if he doesn’t. is not already the best right-back in the world. He will take another step forward by touching a very, very high level, in contact with the best players in the world. »
“Knowing him, the business and all the rest, he didn’t care, he came to play football, progress and live his best life. » Nikólaos Vérgos, friend from Castilla
Finally, Achraf Hakimi seems to allow PSG to take a step forward as much as the reverse. And this, at all levels. “In Morocco, it has become a world star, poses Rabie Takassa.I spent two months there this summer, since signing with PSG, every day I saw dozens of kids wearing Hakimi’s jersey. Okay, these are fakes (laughs) , but I have never seen so many Moroccans wearing the jersey of a Moroccan player. » Despite all the enthusiasm he causes, the enthusiasm of Parisians who rave about each of his breakthroughs on the right side, each of his millimeter centers or at the slightest personalized celebration with Mbappé, remains calm. « Knowing him, the business and all the rest, he didn’t care, he came to play football, progress and live his best life., says Nikólaos Vérgos. The rest, very little for him. When I look at him, I have the impression of seeing a local guy, who plays football with his friends. » Hervé Renard confirms:“He is calm, sure of his strength. He leaves no doubt. The pressure slips completely over him. It is the strength of the greatest, not to let themselves be annihilated by events, and to sublimate with them. Him, I think he would want to play a Champions League match every week. » That’s good, at PSG, that’s kind of all that matters.
By Alexandre Aflalo and Adel Bentaha