Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi has seen his stock soar in 2018, and is beginning to look like he could be Africa’s next footballing superstar.
Certainly, it’s tricky to find too many African talents whose reputations have improved the most over the last 12 months, and things could get even better for the North African, who’s looks like he could be part of something special at Borussia Dortmund.
Earlier this week, the full-back won a second Bundesliga Rookie of the Month, defeating Jean-Philippe Mateta of Mainz and Fortuna Düsseldorf's Dodi Lukebakio to win the award for November.
He’s earlier claimed the prize in September, and indeed, there’s no youngster who’s impressed more than the defender so far this season.
Hakimi has adapted seamlessly to life in Germany—and as a first-team regular at a giant like Dortmund—after moving to the club on a loan deal from Real Madrid during the offseason.
It may not be just a loan stay for too much longer, with BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke revealing during the club’s AGM that they were intending to recruit the wonderkid on a permanent basis.
So accomplished has Hakimi’s form been at unexpected table-toppers Dortmund, that it has become easy to forget that he had only nine league appearances to his name before this season.
The wideman enjoyed his breakthrough campaign last term when he capitalised on an injury to Real’s first-choice right-back Dani Carvajal to take his maiden steps in Los Merengues’ first team.
The starlet impressed under Zinedine Zidane, and even made two appearances in the Champions League en route to Real’s latest continental success.
Los Blancos’ success against Liverpool in Kiev ensured that Hakimi became Morocco’s first European champion.
He’d follow that up with a series of fine showings at the World Cup—he played every minute of the Atlas Lions’ three World Cup games—playing out of position at left-back.
Even after his encouraging showings of last season—he scored twice in La Liga during a tricky campaign for the capital club—few had expected that Hakimi would take to life in Germany so seamlessly.
He’s contributed three assists and scored once so far for Lucien Favre’s young and dynamic side, largely maintaining his World Cup role—on the left—while also starting five matches from right-back.
The 20-year-old has demonstrated a braveness and boldness on the ball, and has averaged 1.5 successful dribbles per match in the top flight so far this term—putting him into the Bundesliga’s top 20.
Hakimi’s UCL form has been particularly impressive, with the wideman notably playing a key role in the 4-0 dismantling of Atletico Madrid, contributing three assists in a result which will have gone down well in the white half of the Spanish capital!
Amidst a relative dearth of elite African full-backs, Hakimi's emergence has come against the current.
Outside of England and Italy, where Kwadwo Asamoah was a consistent—if occasionally peripheral—figure during Juventus’ years of dominance, it’s hard to find African players making major contributions at title-winning sides in Europe’s major leagues.
Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have largely eschewed African talent amidst their recent successes, but Hakimi could be set to buck the trend.
After 14 matches, Dortmund are comfortably out in front in the Bundesliga; they’re seven points ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach and, crucially, nine ahead of Bayern Munich.
Hakimi is well placed to follow up last year’s UCL title with a Bundesliga winner’s medal, as this wonderkid’s meteoric rise continues.