A natural consequence of the World Cup is that certain players will take the next step in their careers. With the eyes of the world watching, a series of good performances in the biggest competition in football can be enough to change a life.
That may end up being the case for several of Morocco’s players after this tournament. The likes of Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech and Yassine Bounou in Spain were already stars, but in general terms, they were not the most heralded squad at the tournament.
In particular, Azzedine Ounahi has caught the eye. Part of a midfield that has shutdown many of the most talented players in the competition alongside Sofyan Amrabat and Selim Amallah, Ounahi has reached global notoriety with his performances.
Often, Ounahi has been one of Morocco’s key attacking threats as they escape the pressure of the opposition. His capacity to hold the ball under pressure, take the ball past his marker or find an incisive pass upfield have been highly impressive. Paired with prodigious work-rate Ounahi has been one of the players of the tournament.
It has led to a number of clubs being linked with him in recent days. Reportedly Barcelona are one of the teams watching him, while Leicester City are seemingly willing to spend €45m on the Angers midfielder, as per L’Equipe (via Sport). There are a number of reasons that Barcelona should avoid using what little financial muscle they have left on the 22-year-old though.
The primary reason being that Barcelona do not have significant cash available. Theoretically, one of the attractions of signing Ounahi would be that coming from Angers, he would not cost much. Yet if the report about Leicester’s prospective offer has any substance, that would put Ounahi well out of their price range.
Secondly, if Barcelona are to spend any money, Ounahi’s position is not a priority. Sergio Busquets remains the big question mark ahead of next season, with his contract up this summer. Any available resources should be directed there or towards the right-back position.
While Ounahi may have outplayed the Spanish midfield, consisting entirely of Barcelona players, the chances of Ounahi starting ahead of Pedri, Gavi or Frenkie de Jong seem slim. Even if his directness, hard running and quick feet might be of use, the evidence beyond this World Cup is that their current options are better.
Morocco’s deep defending and sweeping counter has been highly effective throughout the World Cup, but at Barcelona, Ounahi would be asked to do entirely different things. Xavi Hernandez is keen to dominate the ball and more often than not, the opposition will happily defend as Morocco do. Where Ounahi has excelled, he would likely struggle to do so at Camp Nou.
Overall, signing a player off the back of a good World Cup has always been a risky business as it is. While Barcelona may appreciate the work Ounahi has done this tournament, that is where their interest in him should end, with more questions than answers surrounding a potential signing.