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Brahim Diaz, the nugget who frustrated Pep Guardiola

He is already 24 years old and is only starting to make his mark at Real Madrid. It’s almost a decade since we heard about the Moroccan neo-international. Before setting the Santiago Bernabéu on fire, the attacking midfielder spent a long time honing his skills at Manchester City. He will be back in an Etihad Stadium that he knows well having played there between the summer of 2016 and the winter of 2019 (15 appearances, 2 goals). In two and a half years in England, he will have mainly known the youth teams. The basis of a frustration, which, despite the recommendations of Pep Guardiola and his very young age, will lead to his departure to Casa Blanca.

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“I hope he can get the minutes he wants there that he hasn’t been able to get recently for a lot of reasons. Young people earn their opportunities on the pitch, but look at the big clubs… How many young people do they have in their squad? Today, there are people aged 16 or 17 who want a place in the first team and play 40 matches. And that’s very complicated.”, explained, disappointed, the Spanish coach in January 2019 when he had granted three appearances to the player since the start of that season. Insufficient in the eyes of someone who was considered a great hope. It was the interest of the club that prevailed.

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A €17 million start at Real Madrid

“What we want and what we are proposing is that they be with us, that they train, train and earn their opportunity. I wish Brahim the best, he’s a good guy.” Of course the Skyblues did not lose everything in this affair. Diaz was sold for €17 million, he who had very little experience at the professional level. He arrived for training in 2014 from Malaga for 350,000 euros. But more than financial interest, it is sporting interest that disappointed an entire club. The one who was then a Spanish international in different age categories (U17, then U19 and U21) represented the next generation with Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden.

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The three attackers worked in the youth categories before taking different paths when they moved to the first team. Only one of them, Foden, managed to do well and have a chance over time. The Englishman has even become one of Pep Guardiola’s major elements. The other two, faced with a lack of immediate opportunities, preferred to leave. Sancho and Diaz then experienced varying fortunes. The Englishman left for Borussia Dortmund where he immediately stood out, before experiencing an almost blank slate since his departure for Manchester United.

Saved by loans to AC Milan

For the new Moroccan international, the path was the opposite. His first months in Madrid were difficult. He doesn’t play much more than in England despite a good end to the season. Promises quickly forgotten the following exercise where he disappears completely. On the downward slope, Real sent him on loan to AC Milan. This decision undoubtedly saved him for the highest level. Without being a must for Stefano Pioli, the attacking midfielder plays regularly and convinces the Rossoneri to extend his loan for two additional years during which he wins Serie A (2022) and becomes indisputable (124 matches, 18 goals, 15 assists).

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The Madrid train passes a second time, and Brahim Diaz does not miss the stop. Despite even greater competition than in Lombardy, the attacking midfielder is hanging on. He responds when Carlo Ancelotti gives him a chance. He certainly only has the 15th most playing time in the squad (36 games, 9 goals and 5 assists) but is playing more and more. “He is starting to become the nugget that we were told when he arrived at Manchester City at a very young age,” confirms Samir Nasri on the set of Canal Plus on the evening of the victory in the round of 16 first leg against RB Leipzig where Diaz was the author of the only marvel of the match.

Reunion time at the Etihad Stadium

This time, the 24-year-old is off to a good start. He even became a Moroccan international, much to the chagrin of Spain. Now, at the time of finding Manchester City in the quarter-final second leg of the Champions League, the challenge for him is to assert himself with the Merengues where he is under contract until 2027 with one of the lowest salaries of the workforce. “Negotiations for an extension? No, nothing, there isn’t… explained the person concerned last month. I am taking full advantage of this opportunity and, of course, I want to stay here for many years. I feel loved by the fans. » A love that would be even greater if he were to eliminate his former club.

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Pub. 04/17/2024 5:02 p.m. Updated 04/18/2024 5:35 a.m.

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