Achraf Hakimi is ready for his next challenge. The Morocco full-back has said goodbye to Borussia Dortmund, having established himself as one of world football’s biggest emerging talents.
The 21-year-old has already featured at a World Cup and played for two of Europe’s biggest clubs – having spent two years on loan at Dortmund from Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Hakimi, Africa’s youth player of the year in 2018 and 2019, scored nine goals and provided 10 assists in all competitions for Dortmund during the season just completed.
He has relished the chance to shine during his time in Germany as part of a Dortmund side brimming with attacking talent such as Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho.
Hakimi has been keen to make a difference outside football too – he and Sancho showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement by revealing ‘Justice for George Floyd’ T-shirts after scoring against Paderborn in May. They were among the first footballers to respond to Floyd’s death in such a way.
That was the first topic discussed when Hakimi spoke to BBC Sport for a quick Q&A.
What inspired your protest?
I’m from Africa, my father is from Africa. I’m a little bit a black guy. I spoke with Sancho before the Paderborn game; he wrote ‘Justice for George Floyd’ on my T-shirt and said: “You need to score and take the T-shirt up to show the people.” We both did it. It was great to be one of the players to do this thing to show the people.
Is it important for footballers to speak out?
Yes of course. It’s not only football players – all the people in the world need to speak about this, because everyone is the same. I don’t care if you’re a black guy, a white guy, if you have money, if you don’t have money, I don’t care. I think everybody needs to be the same, and get the same justice.
Why did you set up a charity Fortnite tournament to raise money for coronavirus?
Because with coronavirus, too many people have not been able to work, and so they are not getting paid.
I want to help these people from my country, from my city. I wanted to organise the tournament to help people who don’t have money now and who need to eat and pay their bills.
I remember when I was young – I didn’t have anything, my father worked hard for us. Now I can help these people, so I do it.
Let’s talk football – what do you want to do now the season has finished?
I think next I need to relax a little bit. For my head and my body. Then after I need to think about everything – what I have and what is better for me.
I want to continue to play, like I have done since I was 17 years old. I want to play all the time like I have done over these last two years with Dortmund. If I play regularly, I think I can be a good player – you learn more and become better.
I don’t care where, you know. I think only that wherever I go, I go to play.
I think it’s an amazing thing to play [for Dortmund] in front of 80,000 people. It doesn’t matter where you play, this feeling is incredible.
You’re the fastest player in Bundesliga history…
I’m very happy to have made history in the Bundesliga. It’s amazing – but I need to work more to be faster. I think Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich has achieved the same speed as me; I think it’s 36.2km/h (22.4mph).
What’s it like playing with Jadon Sancho?
It’s amazing! I think it is the best feeling when I play with him because he can understand what we do together.
Your favourite player growing up was Real Madrid’s Marcelo…
It was a dream for me to play alongside him, like it was when I signed for Real Madrid. I signed when I was young; I didn’t believe it when they called me.
As a young player, I looked up to Marcelo because he plays in the same position as me.
He laughs all the time too; when he plays, he enjoys it. I want to be like him.
You play in lots of different positions, what’s your favourite?
I think I like the right-back role – but I like to go on the attack all the time. I like to play as a winger too, and sometimes I feel as if I want to play as a striker. But I think right-back is good.