Numerous sources are reporting interest from Manchester City in PSV Eindhoven starlet Zakaria Bakkali. Bakkali is described by all as "small and skillful" and now has the moniker of the "best young player in the World” thrust upon him. No pressure then for the 15-year-old. So how good is he really? The line between being the next Pele and the next Freddy Adu is finer than you’d think.
Bakkali was born in Morocco but like so many that have gone before him grew up in Europe and has chosen to play his international football at youth level for Belgium. He first came to the attention of English clubs in August of this year playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Nike Cup, hosted by Manchester United. PSV failed to make it out of their group but Bakkali was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The young Belgian was spotted three years ago while a part of the youth setup at Standard Liege and PSV moved quickly to bring him to the club. Manchester City’s recruitment could be just as swift with a move apparently not far off. PSV have stated they are keen to keep the player and when you consider the potential he offers it’s easy to understand why.
The small and skillful description is at least half right. In truth he matches up physically with those playing in his age group quite well, he had no problem looking Bobby Charlton in the eye when presented with the Nike Cup’s Most Valuable Player award. Playing as a number-9 Bakkali does however have a level of skill that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Bakkali possesses a venomous shot and can be seen in various PSV C1 videos beating goalkeepers from distance. The threat he offers outside the box forces defenders to close him down when he receives the ball. Watching Bakkali play you can see he relishes that pressure, often beating players with his close control and turn of pace, exploiting the space they leave behind.
There are areas for development but that is only natural for one so young. The movement off the ball and ability to bring those around him into play is there but still needs honing to make him a truly great player. The youth setup at PSV has been developed to do exactly that and Dutch football is often hailed as a great hotbed for exciting young talent.
Whether the talented young Belgian can handle the added pressure that a publicised move to Manchester City would bring remains to be seen. It is simply too early to tell if the mental strength required to succeed at the highest level is there. The natural talent most certainly is though.
If expectation can be tempered – something we seem to have little understanding of in this country – and Bakkali is given time to develop then the Etihad Stadium club could be on the verge of signing one of the Premier League’s brightest future stars.
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