Maghreb Player of the Year nominees revealed

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France football have revealed their top 10 Maghreb nominees for their player of the year award for the region. 

The Maghreb is an area spanning the north-west part of Africa and includes nations such as Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. 

HAKIM ZIYECH (MOROCCO – CHELSEA, ENGLAND)

 

Ziyech made the high-profile move from Ajax to Chelsea in the recent transfer window after an impressive stint with Ajax Amsterdam. He was instrumental in the 2018/19 campaign for a Champions League final place in which Ajax were unlucky to lose in the final seconds of the game against Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final. He continued his creative form in the following season ending on 6 goals and 13 assists before moving to London. 

This season, injuries have been a problem for the Moroccan, but he has still been influential in nearly all of his appearances for Chelsea this season and has so far got 1 goal and 3 assists in just seven appearances. 

ISMAËL BENNACER (ALGERIA – MILAN, ITALY) 

Since leaving Arsenal for Empoli, Bennacer has shown what a mistake it was for the Gunners to let him leave. The Algerian impressed heavily during his time at the Tuscan club, so much so that AC Milan soon moved for his signature. Despite Arsenal having the option to sign the promising youngster with a first refusal the North London side chose not to and Bennacer arrived at Milan with great expectations. 

He has since gone on to become an important member of the Milan side, playing at the centre of their midfield. His technical ability and great positional discipline have led him to this year’s nomination. 

BONO (MOROCCO, SEVILLA FC, SPAIN) 

The Moroccan goalkeeper has been an absolute revelation at Sevilla. After the departure of highly rated goalkeeper Sergio Rico, Bono has stepped up to the position with great professionality and consistency. Interestingly, Bono was born in Montreal, Canada, but moved to Morocco before his 8th birthday. 

There he continued his footballing development which he had begun at Montreal Impact and was soon spotted by the recruitment staff of Atletico Madrid. He impressed after leaving the Madrid-based club in Girona. After signing for Sevilla, in a deal that was initially a loan, the Moroccan keeper established himself as Julen Lopetegui’s number one. 

The reason for his nomination has been his excellent form which has seen him concede just 10 goals from 16 games and keep 10 clean sheets.

ALI MAALOUL (TUNISIA – AL-AHLYEGYPT) 

Ali Maâloul will certainly be one of the lesser-known names on the list, but not one to be underestimated in the running for the award. The Tunisian left-back is an interesting player who, despite his senior age of 30, is a prolific goal scorer and assist maker in what is typically a more defensive position. 

So far this season, after just three games in the Egyptian Premier League, the defender has one goal and four assists. This adds on to his five goals and six assists from the previous campaign where he played just 23 games. 

SAID BENRAHMA (ALGERIA – WEST HAM, ENGLAND)

 

One of the most talked about players currently. His performances for Brentford FC last season eventually earned him a move to West Ham United in the Premier League. 

The Algerian winger was a prolific goal scorer and creator for the ‘Bees’. He became one of the Championship’s best players and finished last season on 17 goals and 9 assists. He has so far failed to establish himself with the ‘Hammers’, but much is expected of the 25-year-old as the he gets more minutes and also progresses further in the national side. 

SOFIYANE AMRABAT (MOROCCO – FIORENTINA, ITALY) 

Brother to the former Watford winger Nordin, nine years younger and flourishing in Serie A is Sofiyane Amrabat. The Moroccan international became an integral part of the Hellas Verona midfield and his fantastic performances for the club earned him a high profile move to Fiorentina in the last transfer window. 

A central midfielder with great physical presence, but also technical ability on the ball has led him to achieve consistency and quality in the Italian top tier. A versatile player that can play in central midfield or deeper as a possible sweeper who covers the back line, Amrabat has become a regular in the ‘La Viola’ ranks. 

RAMY BENSEBAINI (ALGERIA – BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY) 

A forward-thinking full-back who has become an integral part of coach Marco Rose’s Borussia Monchengladbach. The 25-year-old Algerian international finished last season on 5 goals and 4 assists despite playing just 19 games in the Bundesliga. 

Although the goals are yet to flow in the league this season, Bensebaini has scored a couple of important goals for Gladbach in the Champions League. He scored in the 2-2 draw with Inter Milan and the 6-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk. The goals helped the club push forward for promotion from the group into the Champions League knockout stages along with Real Madrid in a very difficult group stage that saw a lot of upsets. 

ACHRAF HAKIMI (MOROCCO – INTER, ITALY) 

Achraf Hakimi’s move to Inter Milan was considered as one of the best business decisions that the Italian side has made over the past few years. Having been sent on loan to German giants Borussia Dortmund for two years by Real Madrid, the Spanish club decided that they had enough quality in Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola that they did not need to keep hold of Hakimi and decided to sell him for a significant fee. 

During his final year in the Bundesliga, Hakimi transitioned from a full back into more of an attacking wing back and eventually playing, at times, as a right winger. This meant he fit perfectly into the back 3-4-1-2 system which Antonio Conte plays and therefore takes up the position as a right wing back/right winger on the right side of the Inter Milan selection. 

In 14 Serie A matches, the Moroccan has four goals and four assists continuing his fine goalscoring and creative form from his time in Germany. 

RIYAD MAHREZ (ALGERIA – MANCHESTER CITY, ENGLAND) 

Arguably one of the favourite names on the list with his dazzling performances for Manchester City in 2020. Mahrez is looked upon as one of the most astute signings of a Premier League club that the division has ever seen. 

Having won the league with the miraculous Leicester side in 2016, the Algerian international moved to Man City and continued his domination as a tricky right winger. Mahrez finished the previous campaign with 11 goals and 12 assists for Pep Guardiola’s side and has netted on four occasions in the league already this season. He has become a player many left backs in the Premier League are fearful of facing. 

ELLYES SKHIRI (TUNISIA – COLOGNE, GERMANY) 

Moving from one of the most well-known on the list to one of the least. Ellyes Skhiri moved to the Bundesliga with Cologne after coming through the youth ranks at French side Montpellier. 

A defensive midfielder who likes to cover a lot of ground, Skhiri has scored three times this season already including a brace in a 2-1 away victory at Borussia Dortmund. Despite playing in one of the more struggling sides of the Bundesliga, the Tunisian international is certainly one of the league’s standout performers so far. Now aged 25, and approaching his prime, it is expected that a big move for the midfielder could soon materialize if his performances in Germany continue.

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By Prince Sobayeni

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