Atlético Madrid have agreed a fee with PSV Eindhoven for teenage winger Zakaria Bakkali, according to reports in the Netherlands.
A fee of between €2-3 million has been discussed for the 18-year-old Belgian, who only has one more year to run on his contract.
Bakkali's rise to stardom has been rapid. After joining the PSV academy in 2008, he made his debut in 2013, as a 17-year-old. He made a goalscoring start on his senior debut, in a Champions League qualifying match against Belgian side Zulte Waragem.
It was to get better for the diminutive winger when, three days after his debut he netted a hat-trick against on his home debut for PSV, against NEC Nijmegen, becoming the youngest player to do so in Eredivise history. Bakkali demonstrated skill, balance and the ability to use both feet in scoring the treble, and ensured scouts all over Europe would closely follow the Liege-born youngsters progress.
Bakkali is far from being the finished article. Being honest, the hat-trick he scored early in his senior career was as good as it got last season, with contract disputes blighting his debut campaign. He failed to score or assist another goal, starting only seven games, and appearing as a substitute in a further nine. However, Belgium manager Marc Wilmots was sufficiently impressed by Bakkali's potential, handing the youngster his international debut for the Red Devils as a 17-year-old against Wales.
He possesses all the attributes of a modern winger, pace, fantastic close control and, despite being 5ft 4in is relatively stocky and strong on the ball. Owing to these characteristics, Bakkali is often compared to compatriot Eden Hazard, although he lacks the creativity and vision of the Chelsea winger. This is understandable, given his tender age, but to play for Diego Simeone's teams you need to be willing to work and track-back, something Bakkali doesn't particularly enjoy.
In need of pace
Bakkali's arrival will give Atlético some much needed pace. For all their ability, Atléti's squad is somewhat lacking in genuine speed. Cristian Rodríguez and Antoine Griezmann aside, Simeone's side is packed full of technical yet not particularly quick players. Bakkali will provide an outlet on the counter-attack, and is searingly fast.
This deal is a no-lose situation for Atlético Madrid. If Bakkali reaches his potential at the Vincente Calderón, Atléti will have one of the most dangerous wingers in the world at their disposal. If he doesn't, his sell-on value will be higher than the €3 million they are spending to secure his signature.
A shrew piece of business by Atlético Madrid, who continue to reinvest wisely.
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