What do Real Madrid have in Brahim Diaz?
Real Madrid signed 19-year-old Brahim Diaz from Manchester City for a reported £15 million. Following Jadon Sancho's departure, Diaz admitted he too wanted to leave. No one expected him to land at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu. He is now where every footballer wants to be: living his dream.
I'm arriving at the club I dreamed of playing for as a boy. My only three options that I wanted were to play for Real Madrid, to play for Real Madrid or to play for Real Madrid.
Brahim began his career with Malaga, on the Spanish Riviera. He moved to England as a 16-year-old but was nevertheless fast-tracked through La Roja's U18s. After making short appearances in cup competitions for Manchester City during the 2016-17 season, he made his Premier League debut last term. Pep Guardiola spoke very highly of him but the only recognition the youngster cared for was playing time. He left the Etihad.
Losing its two brightest prospects is not the way City should function. Supposedly recast in the Barcelona mould, the best players should be coming into the first team as Guardiola himself did after excelling at La Masia.
What's done is done, though.
To be fair to the City boss, Diaz is an unfinished work. The Spain international is very versatile, playing on both wings and as a number 10 for City, as a central midfielder for Spain. His hunger for space creates passing options for his teammates but his vision lacks end-product. His press retention is raw too. Too often he runs into the press rather than passing off to teammates. Quick, agile and positive, his dribbling is outstanding but his success rate is very low. Too often, he is dispossessed in vulnerable positions, leaving his defence exposed.
Defensively, he is not sound either. He can press the defensive line in the opposition half but don't expect the second coming of Alexis Sanchez. His physique is a problem as well. Too slight, he needs to put on the type of muscle that invited injury for Gareth Bale.
Santiago Solari has a much more advanced version of Brahim Diaz in his stable. Isco's game is remarkably similar to the youngster's. Both like to play just behind the striker, take on opponents, play one-twos and make diagonal runs into the box looking for low crosses. Isco developed into a world-class but has still found the bench under the new Argentine manager.
Diaz has the potential to be everything Isco is but should be wary about finding himself in the same predicament. Rumours suggest Isco may leave Madrid. If so, Diaz can really seize the opportunity.
So, what does he bring? Just potential. The sky is the limit for the lad. His youth CV can attest for it. Clubs regularly make desperate signings in January. Phillipe Coutinho for example.
With Rodrygo Goes coming in next summer, the record 13-time Champions League winners will boast an exciting new generation that includes Dani Caballos and Vinicius Junior. Diaz can find a place.
Club President Fiorentino Perez has shifted Real's transfer policy. They have not made a 'galactico' signing since 2014. The Blancos are trying to build their team around youngsters while the Bernabeu undergoes a massive and massively expensive overhaul.
Since returning to his homeland, Diaz featured in the fabled white shirt three times. He shows commitment, humility and a willingness to learn.
As you might expect from a new manager emphasising youth, Solari struggles to get the best from his squad. Youngsters need polish. Veterans lack confidence and morale. Solari's days could be numbered. The club is reportedly prepared to battle Manchester United for Mauricio Pochettino's signature this summer. With a manager accustomed and successful at developing young talent potentially on his way, Diaz might be exactly where he needs to be.