Hakimi’s less-than-impressive campaign
Despite winning the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain, Achraf Hakimi did not have the season he and observers had hoped after his big-money move from Inter Milan in the summer of 2021.
Hakimi was among a star-studded line-up of five new players that included Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Gini Wijnaldum that PSG unveiled ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, placing the French champions among the favourites to win the Uefa Champions League.
However, PSG failed to impress on the continental front as they were knocked out by Real Madrid in the Round of 16.
At home, PSG were not invincible as many had hoped even if they ended the season with a 15-point lead over second-placed Marseille.
They suffered losses to Rennes, Nantes, Nice and Monaco with stalemates against the likes of Lens, Strasbourg and Troyes drawing criticism and piling pressure on beleaguered coach Mauricio Pochettino.
While many people expected PSG to sweep every trophy available, they ended up with just one as they also missed out on the Trophee des Champions to Lille and exited the Coupe de France at the round of 16.
Hakimi, who joined PSG after an impressive season with Inter that yielded the Serie A title and seven goals and 11 assists, was a mainstay in the team, making 41 appearances in all competitions, but he could only muster four strikes while setting up six chances for his team-mates.
These were not the numbers expected from the Moroccan international given he was now playing in a ‘super team’ loaded with world-class attacking talent, with little competition in the French league.
The story of last season
While Messi, Donnarumma, Ramos and Wijnaldum joined PSG as free agents, the French giants shelled out an initial €60 million, potentially rising to €71 million with add-ons, for Hakimi who had just joined Inter a year before for €40 from Real Madrid.
Hakimi came with a huge reputation as one of the best right-backs in the world and his seven goals and 11 assists for the Nerazzurri suggested so. He had managed seven goals and 10 assists while on loan at Borussia Dortmund in 2019-20, so PSG were not getting a one-season wonder.
The Real Madrid academy graduate hit the ground running in the French capital, scoring on his PSG debut in the league opener against Troyes before providing an assist a piece in the third and fourth Ligue 1 ties against Brest and Reims.
Hakimi was the match winner away to Metz in September, his brace giving PSG a 2-1 victory and he would wait until December 22 for his next goal involvement, and assist in PSG’s 1-1 draw with Lorient.
He would then link up with Morocco for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon where he was one of the Atlas Lions' standout performers, scoring two goals, both brilliant free-kicks, against Gabon and Malawi as they reached the quarter-finals before being eliminated by finalists Egypt.
On his return to France in early February, the 23-year-old featured in three league games before a hamstring injury forced him out for two weeks but returned at the beginning of March to provide an assist each against Bordeaux and Lorient.
In April, Hakimi had an assist against Angers before scoring his final goal of the season at the end of that month in a 3-3 draw at home to Strasburg. This was a low return, compared to his numbers in the previous two seasons, given he had the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Messi to feed in a team built to attack.
The Morocco international did turn up in the big Champions League games, in fact, he was found wanting in defence with two of Real Madrid's goals being created from his side while he did not set up any for his teammates.
Good going forward, Hakimi’s limitations at the back were also laid bare as he struggled to find the right balance between attack and defence.
He was exposed sometimes as he struggled to get to grips with Pochettino’s favoured back four as opposed to the wing-back role he played at Inter.
Hakimi ended 2021-22 with just the Ligue 1 trophy and that must have been disappointing from a season and team that promised so much at the start.
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Any transfer rumours
There were rumours of a return to Madrid in May especially after he was spotted in the Spanish capital alongside Mbappe while Chelsea were also credited with an interest.
However, that is unlikely to happen as Hakimi will be staying in Paris under new coach Christophe Galtier, who is expected to replace Pochettino in the dugout.
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One big hope for 2022/23
Outgoing Nice coach Galtier, who won the league with Lille in 2020-21, is known to employ an attacking style that gives his full-backs freedom to bomb forward and this is likely to play to Hakimi’s strengths.
An increase in his goal tally and a return to double digit assists is therefore a big possibility given it is also a World Cup year and he will need to impress the no-nonsense Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
One big fear for 2022/23
An injury setback that keeps him out for months would be catastrophic for the Spanish-born full-back.
GOAL’s prediction for 2022/23
We are backing Hakimi to return to his sky-high numbers of goals and assists while we also see him as one of the African All Stars that will have a great tournament at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.