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Abde Ezzalzouli, the Moroccan youngster powering CA Osasuna’s Copa del Rey charge

THE 21-year-old has been key to the Pamplona side’s run to the Copa del Rey final and has earned praise from Xavi Hernández, the coach of his parent club FC Barcelona.

When it became clear towards the end of the 2022 summer transfer window that FC Barcelona was going to loan out their talented young winger Abde Ezzalzouli, CA Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrasate urged the club’s sporting director Braulio Vázquez to do all he could to bring this rising star to El Sadar. And, he succeeded. On the final day of the window, Abde was brought in on a season-long loan, one which has already exceeded the high expectations CA Osasuna had for the Moroccan.

CA Osasuna has reached the club’s second-ever Copa del Rey final and Abde has been one of the key players during this journey. It was his extra-time strike that saw Los Rojillos advance past Sevilla FC in the quarter-finals before the 21-year-old again got the El Sadar crowd on their feet by scoring the only goal of the 1-0 semi-final first-leg victory over Athletic Club. After CA Osasuna finished the job in Bilbao, Abde then produced a spectacular brace in LaLiga Santander Matchday 28 to earn his side a 2-1 comeback victory over Elche CF.

The win against Elche CF was particularly special for the winger, as he’d played in Los Franjiverdes’ academy when he was younger after his family moved to the Carrús neighbourhood of Elche from Morocco when he was seven. A move to Hércules CF then followed and it was there that Abde’s unique skillset was spotted by FC Barcelona director Ramón Planes.

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Barça sent scouts to watch several of Abde’s matches with Hércules CF and decided to sign him for the Catalan club’s B team in 2021. There was particular excitement about the Moroccan’s potential, as he’d learned to play on the streets and had an old-school dribbling style but he had also spent time in some excellent academies and knew how to fit into a team.

After arriving at FC Barcelona, Abde quickly impressed B team coach Sergi Barjuán and was then handed his first-team debut when Barjuán took interim charge of the side before Xavi Hernández’s appointment. Xavi gave the winger 10 more appearances for the senior team last season, including a match at CA Osasuna where he scored his first senior goal, unaware at the time that he’d be scoring several more goals at El Sadar just a few months later.

Once his loan to CA Osasuna was completed in the summer of 2022, Abde fitted in straight away. He found an apartment near Plaza del Castillo in the centre of Pamplona, allowing him to fully soak up the city’s atmosphere, while he displayed a friendly and humble attitude at training and was also helped by the fact that dressing room leader Chimy Ávila decided to take Abde under his wing.

In his debut, at home to Rayo Vallecano, it took Abde just a matter of minutes to win over the fans, as he dribbled by five defenders to assist Rubén García for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. That was just a snippet of Abde’s dribbling ability, as he has produced an average of 3.33 successful take-ons per LaLiga Santander game this season.

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Those dribble assists and goals in LaLiga Santander even saw Abde rewarded with a place in Morocco’s World Cup squad, and the youngster played in three matches as the African side reached the semi-finals.

It truly has been an incredible 2022/23 campaign for the winger and Barça coach Xavi has been watching on with interest. As the Catalan said during a recent press conference: “Abde is making the most of this loan. I think he is making a difference there. They are very happy with him in Pamplona, which is important. He’s being professional and he’s playing very well. When he comes back, which we want, we will see how he is, we will evaluate him and then we will decide what to do with him. But he can be an important player for the future. I’m happy because he’s making the most of this loan spell, which I think he needed.”

As Xavi made clear, Abde’s future is very much up in the air. He has a contract until 2026 with the Catalan club and will look to add to his 10 appearances with the first team. But, for now, Abde’s focus is on CA Osasuna and on trying to win the first major trophy in the club’s history when they play the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid in May.

By The African Mirror

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