Following the signings of Abdou Diallo and Thomas Delaney, Borussia Dortmund recruited Achraf Hakimi on a 2-year loan deal from Real Madrid. Despite only being 19, the Moroccan international had a stellar 2017/18 season. He was promoted to Real Madrid’s 1stteam and subsequently won the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and made his debut at the FIFA World Cup with Morocco. Below, I’ll take a look at what makes him such an interesting and important player for the upcoming season.
Hakimi was born in Madrid, Spain in 1998 to Moroccan immigrants. His talent and potential was spotted by Real Madrid scouts, while playing for CD Colonia Ofigevi. At the age of 8, he left his local side and joined Real Madrid’s youth academy, ‘La Fabrica’. In 2016 he made his debut for the reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, and made 28 appearances. Last season, following Dani Carvajal’s injury, Hakimi was called up to replace him and made his competitive debut in a 2-0 win over Espanyol.
Achraf Hakimi’s Playing Strengths:
Before analysing what makes Hakimi such an impressive fullback, it is important to understand that he only took part in 9 first team games for Madrid. However the maturity and solidity he displayed in those games was fascinating to watch for such a young player. He also added an extra attacking threat down the right-hand side for Madrid, which was key in Gareth Bale’s and Dani Carvajal’s absence. Hakimi even managed to score two goals from deep runs, highlighting the first strength I’ll be expanding on…
The young full-back is excellent at positioning himself in the right place at the right time because of his good awareness but more so because he is so fast and energetic. He made an average of 2.3 tackles per game and 0.6 key passes per game from the right back position. Those are interesting statistics considering the fact that Lukasz Piszczeck made only 2.1 tackles per game and 0.7 key passes per game in 24 games. In a league that is so athletic and transition-focused compared to Spain’s La Liga, Hakimi’s youth and stamina will be a prized-possession. He looked extremely comfortable defending at right-back under Zinedine Zidane, and was adventurous enough to create several crosses per game, for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
A heat-map that displays Hakimi’s average positioning. Notice how often he was positioned deep in the opposition’s half.
As mentioned above Hakimi managed an average of 0.6 key passes per game last season. He also had an 86.5% successful pass rate. Given Dortmund’s reliance on their fullbacks, Hakimi’s accurate passing and ability to create key passes, he’ll make a big impact down the right hand side. It’ll also be very interesting to see how he links up with Christian Pulisic, with both players very comfortable and creative on the ball. They’re also both fantastic dribblers. Hakimi averaged 2.4 dribbles per game last season, which is an excellent stat for such a young player. Hakimi’s dribbling ability will also give Pulisic the freedom to play in the inner channels, creating chances from there too, which will make Dortmund more unpredictable down the right flank.
Hakimi’s energetic style of play often sees him rushing into challenges and losing 1v1 duels. He needs to improve in this area if he is to be relied upon in important matches.
Aside from 1v1 duels, Hakimi hasn’t played enough top level matches to be judged accordingly. His statistical database is rather small and 2018/19 will be a testing season for the young Moroccan. However, I predict that he will have a successful season under Lucien Favre, by improving technically and taking more responsibility in a playing system different to what he experienced at Madrid.
Achraf Hakimi is undoubtedly one of the best young talents on planet Earth right now. His quick progression from Real Madrid’s youth team to the pinnacle of European and world football has been no fluke considering his special qualities. He is a player with tons of stamina, energy and creativity in the final 3rd. What remains to be seen is how well he’ll improve his 1v1 defending and if he can improve technically and tactically under Lucien Favre.