Achraf Hakimi and the importance of full-backs in the modern game

By: Gokul Kumar

The full-back position has turned into one of the most pivotal roles in football. The incredible European success of teams boasting marauding full-backs cannot be undermined as in this decade, we have seen the emergence of some of the best ever in these positions, most notably Liverpool’s superstar duo and our very own Spanish-Brazilian alliance of the ever so dependable Dani Carvajal and the irrepressible Marcelo, who have run riot in some of the most famous European nights.

It is mind boggling to think that at one point, Real Madrid’s reserve team boasted full-backs who would go on to become some of the best in the world. Achraf Hakimi and Theo Hernández were at one point stunning bench options for Zidane’s Madrid, and their class was evident right from the off. Sadly, Madridistas could only see them fulfil this potential away from the Bernabéu.

The lack of rotation during Zidane’s first stint, specifically at right-back, was cause for massive concern at Real and sadly Achraf Hakimi was a casualty of the Frenchman’s over-reliance on Carvajal on the right side of the defence. This meant that the Moroccan international had to look for pastures anew when the transfer window rolled around. 

This is too familiar a story — a prospect from a super club goes somewhere else for game time and eventually becomes a shadow of their best self. But Hakimi took his fate into his own hands by moulding himself at Dortmund and becoming one of the world’s best during his one year stint at Inter Milan which culminated in them taking Serie A by storm and winning the scudetto with relative ease. His exploits at right wing-back led to PSG breaking the full-back transfer record to add him to their super team.

For Real, the full-back position, especially on the right was a cause of concern last season due to Carvajal’s injuries and with the likes of Odriozola unlikely to ever line up for Los Blancos again, the stage is seemingly set for Hakimi to make a sensational return. He will undoubtedly be buoyed by the opportunity as post the era of Marcelo, a genuine threat from full-back has been lacking for Los Merengues, an opening that Hakimi will gladly fill in. 

The only concern with Hakimi’s signing would be a defensive frailty that could develop in the bigger games, as Ancelotti often prefers defensive minded full-backs to provide support to his armoury of attacking options. But in the long term, I see him developing sustainably into a right back that could etch himself onto the legacy of Real Madrid and its glory. Achraf Hakimi, running down Real’s right wing and striking fear in the opposition will hopefully be something not too far from reality in the coming years.

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