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Neither Messi nor Mbappe as Hakimi picks PSG star who surprises him most

16:58 IST 14/02/2022
Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Marco Verratti - PSG
The Morocco defender is enjoying a remarkable debut campaign in the French top-flight following his permanent switch from Inter Milan

Achraf Hakimi revealed that Marco Verratti surprises him the most at Paris Saint-Germain, ahead of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Hakimi raved about the Italy international's ability to keep hold of the ball even when he is under pressure from the opposition.

Verratti has played in 14 Ligue 1 games this campaign and in addition to his solid performances in the middle of the park, he has scored two goals so far this season.

"It’s normal to be surprised when you see players like Messi, Neymar and Mbappe in training," Hakimi told MARCA. "However, although I knew him already, the player that surprised me the most is Verratti.

"He is always calm even when is under pressure. He asks for the ball and it’s impossible to take the ball off his feet.

"The quality of those upfront is evident, but seeing Verratti in training is enjoyable.”

Hakimi moved to PSG on a five-year deal in July 2021 after a successful debut season in Italy, where he won the Serie A crown with Inter Milan.

Prior to his permanent switch to Milan, the two-time Caf Youth Player of the Year struggled for regular playing time at Real Madrid with just nine La Liga appearances after developing through the club's youth ranks.

He concluded that the Blancos did not give him a chance to show his qualities, though he won the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup with them in the 2017-18 season.

“When I joined Inter, Real Madrid had an option to re-sign me, but they didn’t use it,” Hakimi continued.

“I think they didn’t gamble on me as other clubs did. I am happy because these clubs [Inter and PSG] made no mistakes by believing in me."

The 23-year-old also praised coach Mauricio Pochettino for believing in him before he switched to the French capital.

"We were in touch even before I came here,” he added. “He was telling me what he expected from me. He gives us footballers self-confidence and tranquillity, making us feel important. That’s how you reach this level.

"That’s what I like about this coach, he is always close to you and gives you responsibility."