FT Top 5 Young Players With African Roots: Munir El Haddadi [Barcelona]
Munir is in Barcelona’s ranks on loan at Deportivo Alaves and was interestingly a Real Madrid fan up until he was 14. He was born on 1 September 1995 to a Moroccan father, Mohamed El Haddadi Arbrqui, who moved to Spain at 18 in a fishing boat and fell in love with Zaida, a lady from Spanish autonomous city of Melilla who was a kitchen hand at the time. He grew up in Galapagar and starred whilst playing for CF Rayo Majadahonda’s Cadete A team scoring 32 goals in 29 matches. He was on loan from Atletico Madrid at the time who had to capture him after a successful trial in 2010. None of the big two Madrid clubs was interested in tying down to their club and Barcelona seized the opportunity by bringing him into their youth team, frustrating the onlooking Manchester City and other top sides.
He made his senior debut for Barcelona on 24 August 2014 in a La Liga match against Elche, scored a goal to become Barcelona’s third youngest goalscorer after Bojan and Lionel Messi. He did not get a lot of game time for the remainder of the season with the Catalans and was sent on loan to Valencia the following campaign. He only managed to score 6 times for Valencia in appearances but has since improved that record with his 2017/18 loan spell at Deportivo Alaves, scoring 10 times and registering 6 assists in 32 matches.
Morocco was interested in having him join the Lions of the Atlas’ 2018 FIFA World Cup squad but saw their joint appeal with the striker to overturn FIFA Cas’ ruling on him switching nationalities denied. FIFA Cas stated that the current rules prohibit him to switch as a per his one-time appearance for Spain in a UEFA Euro Qualifier against Macedonia.