Dispelling the myth that Real Madrid didn’t believe in Achraf Hakimi

Real Madrid, Achraf Hakimi (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Achraf Hakimi (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid are facing several former players in the Champions League Round of 16. Their opponents, PSG, already had Keylor Navas in goal, as well as star forward Angel Di Maria. And then this summer, the Parisians landed legendary Madrid center back Sergio Ramos as a free agent, while then snagging Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan in one of the biggest moves of the summer. Just one year earlier, Hakimi moved from Madrid to Inter.

Out of all of these former players, Ramos may be missed by Madridistas the most due to the legacy he crafted in the Spanish capital, but Hakimi is the one player fans would like back the most. Not only is he one of the best in the world at his position and an exciting young talent, but he would have also been important to Real Madrid these past two seasons due to Dani Carvajal’s recurring injury woes.

So why did Real Madrid sell him in the first place? Many fans are still baffled by this decision, which looks even worse when you consider they didn’t even get 50 million euros for him. Meanwhile, PSG paid 60 million euros to the Nerazzuri. Real had the right of first refusal, but they elected not to pay it, instead offering 200 million euros to PSG for Kylian Mbappe…which PSG rejected anyway.

There are a couple of things to mention about this transfer. Firstly, apparently, Real Madrid had offers of 60 million euros from the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich in 2020, but it was reportedly Hakimi who wanted the move to Inter instead. It proved to be a wise decision for the Moroccan, who was one of Serie A’s best players and a perfect fit in Antonio Conte’s system, playing a decisive role in the Nerazzurri dethroning Juventus‘ run of consecutive Scudetti.

Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal
Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid could not guarantee Achraf Hakimi a starting role

And secondly, there is this idea that Real Madrid sold Hakimi because they were not sold on him or that they did not think he was good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why wouldn’t Madrid believe in Hakimi, a homegrown player whom they loaned to a big club in Dortmund and watched excel in the Bundesliga and Champions League?

There are so many weird statements regarding Hakimi. Remember when his agent laughably tried to blame Zinedine Zidane? Some fans still believe that and badmouth Zidane over Hakimi’s sale to this day, even though Hakimi later said this isn’t true.

The most important thing to do is to take out the blame game and remove hindsight bias. Focus on what was happening in 2020 at that time. The pandemic. The lack of guaranteed minutes because Carvajal was still healthy and playing at a high level every week.

Real Madrid were honest with Hakimi. They did not sell him any false promises of playing time. How could they with a club legend like Carvajal producing at a high level?

PSG, Achraf Hakimi
PSG, Achraf Hakimi (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images) /

Achraf Hakimi surely wanted the move to Inter himself

There is also a bitter truth some fans must swallow, though they must be careful not to turn this into blaming Hakimi, whose position would be totally understandable.

If Hakimi 100 percent wanted to stay in Madrid, he would not have left. Think about it. Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, Mariano Diaz, and so many other players mentioned in the transfer rumor mill have not been sold because they have not asked for a move. If fans are going to unfairly blame Mariano for not facilitating a transfer, then they have to use that same logic and admit that Hakimi wanted to facilitate a transfer to Inter in 2020.

Hakimi probably saw the truth that Zidane and Madrid laid out in front of him. Because of Carvajal’s standing in the club, Real could not guarantee Hakimi full-time minutes at right back at a juncture in his career where playing time is paramount. They may have offered Hakimi some chances at right back and maybe even at other positions, such as right wing, but they could not make promises. So Hakimi took his chances and moved to a 3-5-2 system in Inter where he fit. And for him personally, he made a good decision. He has since reaped the rewards professionally with a title and, yes, financially with a big-money move to Paris.

There is no indication that Zidane had it out for Hakimi or that Real Madrid thought Hakimi was not good enough for the club. Everything we can see points to the opposite and a more complicated story than the media mongers and Twitter hot-take artists want to sell you. There is no villain. This is the business of football. Hakimi made a business decision to take matters into his own hands, he chose Inter over the others, and Real would not stand in his way.

Real is not in the business of antagonizing players or holding them back, and in a pandemic summer with all eyes on a blockbuster Mbappe transfer in 2021 (who could have anticipated him potentially coming for free back in early 2020?) Los Blancos were not in a position to turn down the money either.

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Could they have fought harder to keep Hakimi? I honestly think so. Do I blame Florentino Perez or the club for selling him when looking at the dynamics at the time? I do not, even if the outcome of having to face off against him in the Champions League for PSG, of all teams, hurts deeply.