Every weekend we pick out one under-23 player from around Europe and analyse their performance to provide you with an in-depth scouting report.
This week, we shine the spotlight on Moroccan Achraf Hakimi, who made his debut for Real Madrid against Espanyol on Sunday night.
The 18-year-old is the first Arab player, representing an Arab country, to feature in the first team for Los Blancos, getting the nod after Dani Carvajal was sidelined with a virus.
Here’s an analysis of his display as the hosts won 2-0 at the Bernabeu.
Tackles – 3
Clearances – 3
Crosses – 5
Aerials duels won – 2
Touches – 72
Passes – 50
Passing Accuracy – 92%
Dribbles – 2
Hakimi was full of energy, no doubt aided by the adrenaline a teenager would benefit from when making his debut for Madrid in front of a packed Bernabeu.
However, the 18-year-old’s confidence was palpable as he overlapped on the right side at every opportunity, never hesitating to join the attack.
What was equally impressive though is his desire to get back into position at pace. Every time the hosts lost possession, the full-back was seen sprinting in the opposite direction and was never caught out.
When receiving possession in the final third, Hakimi always backed himself in a one-on-one, opting to take on the defender instead of choosing the safe pass or an early cross into the box.
He would’ve dreamed of linking up with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of all-time, and he did so on one occasion when his delightful ball over the top found the Portuguese inside the area only for his touch to let him down.
47th min – Gets forward down the right and squares a ball to Luka Modric whose clever dummy lets it run through to Isco but the Spaniard’s shot is closed down on the edge of the box.
55th min – The right-back makes another raid down the right flank and takes on his opposite number, twisting and turning, making his way into the box, but his eventual cross is deflected behind for a corner.
78th min – Hakimi has time on the ball, looks up and plays an excellent lobbed pass forward for Ronaldo but he can’t bring the ball under his spell as he contends with pressure from Hermoso.
He may have gotten his opportunity because of Carvajal’s illness but it speaks volumes that Zinedine Zidane would put faith in the 18-year-old instead of opting to use Casemeiro at right-back.
Hakimi showed plenty of promise, never putting a foot wrong and always looking confident on the ball. The youngster will be more than happy with a clean sheet in his first appearance for the club.
It’s no wonder Madrid allowed Danilo to leave for Manchester City in the summer without bringing in a replacement.
Gareth Bale looks set to miss Real Madrid’s La Liga clash with Espanyol on Sunday, sparking fears he could also miss out on two crucial World Cup qualifiers for Wales next week.
Bale limped off with a calf strain after scoring and providing an assist for Cristiano Ronaldo as Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday.
“We will see tomorrow. It is a strain, nothing important but, as always, we don’t like to take risks when a player has a small issue,” Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday.
Wales are battling for a playoff place as they lie second in European World Cup qualifying Group D, but just a point ahead of the Republic of Ireland with two qualifiers remaining.
Chris Coleman’s side travel to Georgia on October 6 before hosting Ireland in Cardiff three days later.
“We will see tomorrow if he is with us, then he will go with his national team, if he has to go with his national team,” added Zidane.
“I don’t think there is a problem between Madrid and his national team. It depends on his state of fitness, we will see day-by-day.”
Brazilian defender Danilo might have moved away from Real Madrid during the summer but he has revealed that two of his former club team-mates, along with Neymar, are among the best he has seen.
In an interview with Ora Bolas, the 26-year old said: “I tell my friends that there are three players who I have seen do other-worldly things in training.
“One is Neymar, another is Isco and the other is Marcelo.
“Marcelo is incredible, as he wants the ball, just like Isco. In terms of ability and quality, he is the best of all.”
Surprisingly, Danilo didn’t name Cristiano Ronaldo in that list, and had his own reasons for it.
“Ronaldo is different as he targets goals and the result,” explained the right-back who is now playing under Pep Guardiola for Manchester City.
When asked about his move to the Premier League, Danilo said: “[The change] was not easy, it took a lot, but now I’m very happy in Manchester. We have been warmly welcomed.”
“Being able to work with Pep Guardiola makes me really happy because he is a professional I’ve always admitted, as well as a talented professional.”