With the Inter Milan wing-back expected to depart San Siro this summer, Goal consider his possible options
When Achraf Hakimi signed for Inter Milan last summer, the wing-back probably didn’t envisage so much disarray amid their ongoing fraught financial situation and the recent departure of Antonio Conte.
The defender had been tipped to thrive under the passionate manager after his arrival and truly delivered in his debut campaign to end Inter’s Serie A drought.
Hakimi’s 15 goal contributions, similar to his haul in his final year in the Bundesliga, were crucial to the Nerazzurri ending Juventus’ nine-year hegemony to return the pinnacle of Italian football since Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning side in 2010.
Only Robin Gosens outdid the wide defender’s goal involvements across Europe’s top five leagues in 2020/21 and there’s an argument to believe the North African may have matched or outdone the Atalanta left wing-back had Conte not prioritised results over free-flowing football en route to claiming Serie A.
While Simone Inzaghi also favours a system involving wing-backs, Inter’s need to sell at least one valuable player has made Hakimi’s future fragile and uncertain.
Real Madrid supposedly have first refusal on the defender — allowing them to match any accepted bid for their former player — who may consider a return to Madrid, especially with Zinedine Zidane no longer at the helm.
Three clubs are said to be considering a move for the 22-year-old, with the Italian champions demanding a fee of around €80 million.
Premier League giants Arsenal, European champions Chelsea and dethroned Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly interested, but which of these sides will be a right fit for the talented wing-back?
Despite their obvious on-pitch decline in recent years, the North London side remain an attractive outfit to join, given their clout, history and the obvious financial benefits of being a top Premier League club.
Mikel Arteta’s team finished 20/21 in eighth spot, outside the European places and will be without continental competition for next season.
They have been away from Champions League football since 2017 and had to make do with the Europa League for three seasons in succession.
The Gunners’ absence of European action next term means top four distractions are reduced and Arteta can focus wholly on securing a CL spot.
However, whether that is enough to convince Hakimi remains to be seen, particularly with Chelsea and PSG rumoured to be in the running for his signature.
The make-up of Arsenal’s current squad suggests game time shouldn’t be a worry for the North African, with Hector Bellerin tipped to depart this summer. The Spanish right-back has failed to reach previous heights since those early highs in the mid-2010s and hasn’t been the same player since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in January 2019.
Niggling injuries since haven’t helped his cause and the conclusion of 20/21 summarised Bellerin’s frustrating situation: he was replaced against Chelsea 22 minutes after his introduction and didn’t play again for the Gunners in their final two games.
Callum Chambers has deputised well for the ex-Barcelona full-back, but he’s largely a centre-back playing in wide defence while Cedric Soares is essentially no more than a backup option in North London.
A switch to Arsenal makes sense for the club, but not necessarily for the player amid the club’s ongoing decline.
While a transfer to Chelsea seems the perfect fit on paper, Thomas Tuchel’s team may need to sell players and sort the futures of current and returning stars before splurging on the 22-year-old.
The turbo-charged Morocco star will fit seamlessly into the German’s system employing wing-backs, although it is not yet known if the 47-year-old will switch to a back four next season or continue with three defenders. If it’s the former, West London may be the fitting destination.
They do seem to be in the market for a right wing-back, with reports linking the European champions with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traore if they are unable to strike a deal for Hakimi.
With Reece James showing he can thrive as a right-sided centre-back as well as on the flanks, the Englishman could provide adequate competition for the Moroccan or play behind the ex-Real player.
Having said that, a transfer for the Inter man could throw Cesar Azpilicueta’s future into doubt, as well as Callum Hudson-Odoi (previously favoured at right wing-back after Tuchel arrived) and returning loanee Davide Zappacosta, who spent last year at Genoa.
Given their current 3-4-3 formation, the transfer looks good for both parties. Still, players may need to be shifted to make room for the gifted Hakimi at Stamford Bridge.
With the future of Mauricio Pochettino up in the air, there are doubts as to whether this deal is club-driven or a managerial target.
Be that as it may, the return of Alessandro Florenzi to Roma after his year-long spell in Paris means PSG need quality in that position.
The Parisians are unlikely to make Colin Dagba their primary right-back, neither are the adaptable Thilo Kehrer nor inexperienced teenager Timothee Pembele expected to dominate in wide defence.
It leaves room for another star player like Hakimi to join the side, regardless of the current managerial uncertainty, although his defensive limitations at full-back may be a concern.
Wherever the Morocco wideman lands, there’s a sense the system may require tweaking owing to the youngster’s propensity to push forward and be somewhat derelict in his defensive third. This flaw was pointed out by Conte early last season, prompting a brief spell out of the side in the autumn.
The improvement in the New Year demonstrated Hakimi’s growth and enhanced application in his defensive tasks. While there will be the obvious bedding in period, any side that acquires the North African will be undoubted beneficiaries of his huge talent.