Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic named his squad on Wednesday for the upcoming friendly game with the United States as well as the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against South Africa and Liberia, with a number of star names and local-based players included.
With the Atlas Lions seeking positive results in America before they begin their Afcon qualification journey, GOAL ranks Morocco’s greatest current players, taking into account the just-concluded European league season.
Linked with a move to Barcelona as a free agent having run down his contract at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the defender had his best season for the Premier League side that he joined in 2016. He featured in 31 league matches while scoring two goals as manager Bruno Lage relied on him in most games. A drop in form for Wolves in the latter stages of the season, coupled with injuries saw Saiss slip down the rankings after a bright start to the 2021-22 campaign.
What a turnaround it has been for the midfielder who was in 2014 called ‘overweight’ by former Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp. The skillful midfielder joined Portuguese giants Benfica in 2015 and having struggled initially, he turned it round and has been a permanent feature in the last three years, winning the league in 2018-19. This season has not been different as Taarabt featured in 42 matches, scoring one goal as his side finished third in the league and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Following a big-money move from Inter Milan to Paris Saint Germain, Hakimi wasted no time showing why the French giants paid €60 million for him as he put in consistent performances all season. Hakimi ended the season with four goals and six assists in Ligue 1 as PSG reclaimed the title from Lille after dominating from the start. Those brilliant performances earned Hakimi a place in the GOAL Africa’s Ligue 1 Team of the Season.
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Sevilla had the second best defence in La Liga after conceding 31 goals, just one more than champions Real Madrid and that was in part down to the performance of their goalkeeper. Bounou, who managed 13 clean sheets, featured in 41 games in all competition and won the Liga's Zamora Trophy which is awarded to the keeper, who must have played a minimum of 60 minutes in at least 28 matches, with the lowest goals-to-games ratio. Bounou conceded 24 La Liga goals in 31 appearances to give him a ratio of 0.77 goals per game ahead of Real Madrid's Thibault Courtois who let in 29 goals in his 36 matches to give him a ratio of 0.81.
The former Southampton midfielder also made GOAL Africa’s Ligue 1 Team of the Season and for a good reason. After a good outing at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Boufal continued where he left for Angers, averaging 3.1 dribbles per match in the just-concluded campaign, more than Neymar and Lionel Messi, and scored eight goals while providing four assists as his club finished in 14th position.
Just joined Bayern Munich, Mazraoui enjoyed a successful season with Eredivisie champions Ajax, scoring five goals and providing four assists in 35 games in all competitions. After five seasons at Ajax that yielded three Eredivisie titles, the highly-sought-after right-back turned down offers from a host of European giants to join Bundesliga champions Bayern on a free transfer.
2Ayoub El Kaabi
The former Wydad Casablanca star is just off an impressive first season in Europe where he bagged 18 goals for Hatayspor in the Turkey Super Lig, missing out on the Golden Boot Award by just two goals to Umut Bozok of Kasimpasa. The winger, who spent all his career in Morocco with a stint in China in between, joined Hatayspor in 2021 and did not need time to adapt as he hit the ground running, helping his side to 12th position in the league ahead of giants Galatasaray.
The 29-year-old edges El Kaabi after a stellar season with Belgium side KAA Gent that yielded 27 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions as his side won the 2022 Belgian Cup in April. His efforts did not go unnoticed as he claimed the Ebony Shoe, which is awarded to Belgium's best African player or player of African descent. Three weeks before the cup final win over Anderlecht, the Netherlands-born forward had scored in both legs of the World Cup playoff as Morocco edged Democratic Republic of Congo 5-2 on aggregate to seal their place in Qatar and the Atlas Lions will be relying on him again in the Afcon qualifiers.