Martin Ødegaard is another contemporary example. The Norweigan wonderkid has flourished on loan at Real Sociedad, finally making good on his teenage promise. He isn’t alone. Mateo Kovačić has been a revelation since swapping Madrid for Chelsea. Raúl De Tomás has excelled at Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol.
Going further back, Arjen Robben was in and out of form while playing for Real. He left for Bayern Munich in 2009 and the rest is history.
But back to Hakimi. The Moroccan flyer has a big decision to make this summer. He will be a Real Madrid player again. Perhaps not for long. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly been showing interest. Most recently, Bayern have been linked with a move for the jet-heeled wing-back.
However, the defender’s agent, Alejandro Camano, rejected those rumours. Speaking to Sky Germany he said: “I’ve already read about it in the media several times but I did not have any contact with Bayern yet regarding Achraf.”
Plenty has changed in two years away from the Santiago Bernabéu. Zinedine Zidane is coach once more, sure, but there’s new competition at right-back.
A Madrid return?
Álvaro Odriozola is a name Hakimi will be only too aware of. The Spaniard joined him in the Bundesliga when he signed on loan until for Bayern Munich in January. He will remain in Bavaria until the completion of the 2019/20 campaign.
Dani Carvajal remains Los Blancos‘ first-choice at No.2 and, at 28, is in his pomp. However, Zidane was Hakimi’s coach at Real Madrid Castilla, the B team. It was the Frenchman who persuaded him not to move on loan to Alavés. It was also Zizou who handed the youngster his Real debut in 2017.
“The fact he asked for the deal (to Alavés) to be called off and wanted me to stay… that meant a lot,” Hakimi has said previously. “He made me the footballer I am today by giving me that chance to play with the professionals. I learned something every day. Whatever happens, I’ll always have a good relationship with him.”
However impressive Hakimi has been while on loan at BVB, almost everyone at Real is expendable. The 21-year-old has almost certainly overtaken Odriozola in the pecking order. But whether he can usurp Carvajal – or left-back Ferland Mendy – is another matter.
If it’s time to move again, Hakimi won’t be short of suitors. He wasn’t in 2018, rejecting Napoli and Juventus to join Dortmund. But the Getafe-born full-back is now a bona fide starter. He is unlikely to be enthralled by the prospect of bench-warming duties at the Bernabéu.
An attacking force of nature
Only Bayern’s converted left-back Alphonso Davies (5.65) and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostić (4.94) – originally a winger – can better Hakimi’s 4.45 take-ons per 90. The Moroccan international completes a healthy 2.69.
With his raw pace, strength and athleticism, Hakimi leaves opposing full-backs for dust. He has been deployed further forward this season by Dortmund coach Lucien Favre – most notably against Internazionale in the Champions League, scoring twice. He is capable of playing on either flank, too.
Importantly, there’s an end product to this with Hakimi responsible for creating nine ‘Big Chances’ in the Bundesliga this term. Kostić (13) and Christopher Trimmel of Union Berlin (11) are the only full-backs who can better that tally.
Assists as a metric are flawed – you’re relying on the finishing ability of those you set up. But Hakimi has ten which, for a full-back, is some return. Thomas Müller (16) leads the Bundesliga while Kostić (8) and Trimmel (7) scrape into the top ten.
Unsurprisingly, then, no full-back in Germany’s top flight can match Hakimi for touches in the opposition box (4.09 per 90). The turbo-charged full-back is getting into good positions time and time again.
Ten assists might sound like an outlier but, given his open-play expected goals assisted (xGA) total is 4.74, what he is doing is repeatable. Only Kostić (5.42) and Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich (4.84) can top that figure.
Can Hakimi defend?
It’s the inevitable question when a full-back has such an impressive array of numbers to account for his attacking qualities. The short answer to that pertinent question is yes, but his defensive positioning could use some work.
Though when Hakimi finds himself in trouble, his incredible pace means he can recover. He became the fastest player on record by reaching 22.49mph in a 3-3 draw with RB Leipzig on matchday 16.
Hakimi has a respectable true tackle win-rate of 53.6 per cent. This takes the total number of tackles attempted (44), dividing it by total tackles + fouls conceded while tackling (11) + challenges lost (27). Simply stating that he wins 1.28 tackles (per 90) isn’t enough – Dortmund’s style of defending and the relative strength of the team corrupt this statistic somewhat.
Hakimi’s time at the Westfalenstadion has clearly been a huge success. “I’ve learned a lot playing on both flanks and that ability is a real string to my bow: any coach who has a player able to play on both wings, someone versatile, knows that this benefits the team,” he told Spanish sports daily AS. “When I’m on the right, it’s more about getting up the wing and crossing; on the left, it’s about linking up with others, cutting inside and shooting if I can.
The player puts his rapid ascent down to coach Favre and, earlier this year, told the Bundesliga website: “Under [Lucien Favre], I improved a little in every area. When he talks to me, I listen carefully to take a lot with me for my future.”
The only question now is where his future will take him.