Abde Ezzalzouli during the Copa del Rey match between Real Betis and Osasuna at Benito Villamarin, Seville, January 2023.

Abde Ezzalzouli’s p*ss-taking dribbles are Barcelona’s future

Proper wingers, like fish & chip suppers and Brylcreem, are increasingly relics from a bygone era.

At the turn of the millennium, wingers were still expected to beat the opposition full-back and whip a cross into the penalty area towards a target man lumbering forward with the finesse of a startled cow.

But nothing stays the same. Pioneers like Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce began to play left-footed wingers on the right, telling them to cut inside and purchase their own ticket to the goal lottery.

Then, as the midfield began to get more congested than the A38 at rush hour, full-backs were tasked with becoming the team’s creative fulcrum.

Different, and effective, but the sight of a winger dashing past opponents to whoops of appreciation became as elusive as the sun’s heat on a March morning.

Thank heavens for Abde Ezzalzouli, the Barcelona and Morocco winger reviving memories of this forgotten art at Osasuna in the early weeks of 2023.

Ezzalzouli was sent-off during the 1-1 at Espanyol at the start of February – dangerous tackles being another component of the traditional winger’s game – but not before he dazzled with the kind of dribbling that’d have made Stanley Matthews wipe a proud tear from his eye.

Taking on opponents like a creatine-inflated shithouse in a Wetherspoons smoking area, the 21-year-old skipped past defenders with a combination of nimble footwork and sheer cojones.

The Espanyol defence were rendered statuesque. Useless. Lumbering about as if their boots were filled with day-old porridge. Ezzalzouli can have that effect on you.

Sadly, his wonder dribble was ended by a desperate block, allowing everybody in the stadium to catch their breath. But Ezzalzouli had underlined his magical talent.

“Extraordinary. The effort is extraordinary,” Xavi said soon after his appointment at Barcelona in 2021. “Abde’s game is spectacular.

“Abde is a differential player. He can make a difference. He is a dagger. A marvel. (He is) making the difference in a tremendous way.”

And it’s clear that Xavi does see a future for Ezzalzouli at Camp Nou; the sale of Memphis Depay to Atletico Madrid and Ousmane Dembele’s ongoing injury issues mean there is space for another winger.

While Ezzalzouli’s impact at Osasuna shows that he can be relied upon to produce match-changing contributions at La Liga level.

Naturally, mid-table Premier League sides are circling like Jaws waiting for his mid-morning brunch. Nottingham Forest and Wolves have expressed an interest in bringing the 21-year-old to England, flexing their financial muscles with a bid Barca literally cannot refuse.

But the player himself seems to want to return to Barcelona this summer – unsurprisingly, considering Pan con tomate is infinitely more appetising than faggots and peas – and has every chance of becoming an integral member of Xavi’s squad.

Indeed, football pursuits around the globe will be hoping Barcelona manage to integrate this jinking dribbler into their side. Perhaps traditional wingers aren’t such a relic after all.

By Michael Lee

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