Brahim with his family at his presentation on Monday.
Brahim with his family at his presentation on Monday. / AFP

Brahim, the Malaga boy destined for the very top

  • The 19-year-old has completed his return to Spain, signing for Real Madrid from Manchester City for 17 million euros

It will have come as no surprise to those who know him. Ever since Brahim Abdelkader Díaz (Malaga, 1999) entered the Academy of his hometown club, everyone knew he was destined for the very top.

This week Brahim, as he is known, came full circle and returned to Spain, sealing a 17-million-euro move from Manchester City to Real Madrid on a six-year deal. Unlike in the north west of England, Brahim has been given a first-team shirt, 21, and is set for an important role in Santiago Solari's squad between now and the end of the season.

He may only have made 15 first-team appearances in his fledgling career so far, but with just months left on his contract and an impressive two-goal performance in the Carabao Cup against Fulham in November, Brahim became one of the hottest properties in Europe and Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez was keen to snap him up.

Los Blancos may not be having their finest moment, but his signing is a show of intent from Pérez as he starts to assemble a squad for the long-term, with the 'Malagueño' a key part of it.

From humble origins

"I believe I'm fortunate, having what I have," Brahim told SUR last July. "I have a family that is incredible and who are with me wherever I go. The same goes for my friends."

Born to a family originally from Melilla, the youngster was encouraged to play football as soon as he could walk. His maternal grandfather, Ángel, would help his parents Sufiel (through whom Brahim is eligible to play for Morocco) and Patricia to manage his and his four sisters' extracurricular activities. Ángel took his grandson to football training as often as he could and it is his influence that drove the youngster on most. For this reason, Brahim dedicates many of his goals to his grandfather.

Brahim represented local boys' sides Mortaledo and Tiro Pichón. At the latter he was signed up by former pro Jaime who was instrumental in the then six-year-old Brahim joining Malaga. At first Antonio Benítez and Ben Barek weren't interested, but after Jaime organised a friendly game between the sides' first teams, he ensured that a boys' game was played beforehand. That was the moment Brahim was signed up for Malaga's boys' team for the 2006-07 season.

His talent was quickly in evidence and by 2011, Barcelona came calling. Brahim was given the tour of the iconic La Masía academy and even met Andrés Iniesta. However, the new owners at Malaga, and specifically the sheikh's right-hand man Abdullah Ghubn, made every effort to stop the deal and Brahim stayed where he was.

Always in the age group above

Brahim's progress was impressive. According to one of his coaches at the time, Rodrigo Hernando (now in charge of Lizarra in Segunda B): "He was always one or two years younger than the rest and some were head and shoulder above him. But he always played to his strengths, using his game intelligence and his ability to feign one way or the other. From the first moment it was clear that he understood the game perfectly. He always knows what to do and he can play with both feet. That is something rare to find these days."

As a result, not just Barcelona were interested. More and more teams started to sniff around and eventually it was Manchester City who came in with an offer that was too good to refuse. In December 2013, at the age of 14, he took the step to move abroad and headed to the Etihad for a fee of 300,000 euros.

However, it wasn't until the arrival of compatriot Pep Guardiola as coach that Brahim's development took a quantitative leap and he was included in first-team matchday squads in the Champions League and cup competitions.

This season looked to be his year as he made an appearance off the bench in City's 2-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea in August. Brahim then made good on his chance in the Carabao Cup in November and noises started to emerge that a move could be on the cards. "Playing in the top teams is not easy for young players, but he [Brahim] showed his qualities again. His training is always incredible and he's really appreciated by all of us," Guardiola said following the Fulham clash.

However, with his first team chances blocked by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Bernardo, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, Brahim decided to switch Manchester for Madrid where a completely different challenge awaits.

"The chance to move to Real Madrid only comes once and you've got to take it," he said on Monday at his official presentation as a Real Madrid player, surrounded by his loving family.