HomeNFLBrahim Diaz proves why Spain's loss is very much Morocco's gain

Brahim Diaz proves why Spain’s loss is very much Morocco’s gain


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A few minutes had passed at the end of Real Madrid’s match against Osasuna and — as usual — Brahim Diaz went to one of the corners to thank his fans for their support at the El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona.

The 24-year-old attacker was left alone but on his way to the dressing room, he was reunited with his team-mates and staff, who showered him with affection.

The match had ended with a 4-2 win for Real, with Brahim scoring the visitors’ third goal.

Finally, Brahim could breathe easy: one of the most hectic weeks of his career was over. 

On March 9, as later corroborated by Spain coach Luis de la Fuente, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) received a notification from football’s world governing body, FIFA, informing them of Brahim’s desire to change his nationality on his federal record. It was a necessary step for Brahim to play for Morocco after obtaining a passport, per FIFA’s regulations.

However, his decision was reported in the press a day later which unleashed controversy in Spain, whose national team have lost one of the most valued young players in the country.

Since the beginning of his senior career at Manchester City, Brahim had only held a Spanish passport and had made more than 20 appearances for various Spain youth teams. He scored on his senior debut for Spain against Lithuania but did not add to his caps.

Brahim on his full debut in 2021 (Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

After some outstanding performances with Real Madrid this season — he has scored nine goals and provided four assists across 33 games (at a rate of 0.77 goal contributions per 90 minutes) — RFEF sources, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect relationships, told The Athletic that they intended to call him up for this international break. The RFEF had included him in its shortlist on March 1. 

Spanish officials had previously not shown much interest in Brahim, citing “a lack of continuity” at Madrid and ignoring him when he won Serie A with AC Milan.

That lack of affection partially determined Brahim’s decision, with his official Morocco call-up arriving on Thursday.

“Something was in the air that if he didn’t come to Spain, he would go to Morocco. I am very grateful to him but I don’t have to call him,” said De la Fuente on Friday. Of the first 10 questions, eight were about the Real Madrid player. 

“It has not been a normal week,” says a source close to the player, who remains anonymous to protect relationships. “He (Brahim) tried to isolate himself but it has been complicated by all the media noise.”

Despite his initial stance of not speaking to the media, Brahim, who was born in Malaga and is eligible for Morocco through his paternal grandmother, was convinced that he had to give his version with two interviews. 

In the first, on Spanish radio station Cadena SER, he responded to those who accused him of behaving badly with the RFEF. “I have never pressured anyone to be called up for Spain and never do,” Brahim said.

“I always decide with my heart and that’s how it has been this time too. I am a boy with dreams, simple. The love and the project that I have been taught in Morocco seems very good to me.”

In the second interview, on the Spanish television network Movistar, he was asked by former Real Madrid coach Jorge Valdano: “You have shown that you have played with the Spanish jersey. What happened?”

Brahim was speechless and the only thing he could do was to raise his arms with palms upwards, laugh nervously and say: “I don’t know what happened. In life, you have to make decisions. But I’m grateful to everyone.”

As if he were the genie of the lamp, he repeated the same gesture in Pamplona after scoring his goal. However, in that celebration what he meant to say was, “Difficult things are easy”.


Brahim celebrates his goal with Vinicius Jr (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

It is a motto he has carried with him since he returned to Real Madrid this summer and that he posted in an Instagram story after the match. He used to do the gesture when he was winning table games with his little sisters and he does it after every goal.

“Brahim is an offensive player, he can play in all positions — today, he played as a left midfielder,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “He combined very well with Vinicius Junior. This mobility gives us a lot of possibilities up front.”


With Jude Bellingham suspended, Ancelotti turned to Brahim. Ancelotti knows Osasuna press well, so he asked his team to surprise them with one-twos and use Brahim’s speed.

Vinicius Jr took advantage of an Osasuna mistake to score after four minutes but it took time for Brahim to settle. His passes were too risky and the physical approach of the defenders was taking a toll.

Osasuna equalised within three minutes but as soon as Brahim connected two moves with a little more space, Madrid began to get into gear.

In the 18th minute, a pass from him to Federico Valverde led to Dani Carvajal’s goal putting Real 2-1 up. Osasuna then began to open up their defensive lines, allowing Brahim to lead Real’s counter-attacks and link up with Vinicius Jr.

Defender Antonio Rudiger called for Brahim to drop deeper and help with Real’s attempts to play out from the back. As a result, Brahim ended up having more possession, reaching 73 touches and registering an 88 per cent passing accuracy (49 out of a possible 56) in 72 minutes, without sacrificing his attacking threat.

Brahim slides home his goal (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Of Real players to make more than one start this season, his average of a goal or assist every 117 minutes is only bettered by Vinicius Jr (88 minutes), Bellingham (94) and Joselu (99). 

Before being replaced by Luka Modric, Brahim celebrated Vinicius Jr’s second goal — minutes after he had separated him from a brawl and advised him to calm down. 

Off the back of performances like these, coaching staff highlight how competing with the best has raised Brahim’s level. Spain’s loss is Morocco’s gain.

(Top photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

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