x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rising Moroccan talent finding his place in Italy

Success at youth international level turns into move to Juventus

Younes Bnou Marzouk, centre, has landed at Juventus after excelling at the youth international level for Morocco.  Sarah Dea / The National
Younes Bnou Marzouk, centre, has landed at Juventus after excelling at the youth international level for Morocco. Sarah Dea / The National

An undoubted star of the 2013 Fifa Under 17 World Cup first offered glimpses of his talent on the streets of Africa, yet not in the country you would first expect.

He is not Nigerian, though given the performances of the latest champions this past month, he may have wished to be. Ultimately, a last-16 appearance was as far as Younes Bnou Marzouk trod, but the young Moroccan seems set to forge a path to the very top of the game.

“It’s going very good,” the striker said when quizzed about a frantic past five months.

Having excelled during April’s U17 African Championship, Bnou Marzouk caught the eye of Juventus, the reigning Italian Serie A champions, who moved swiftly to sign him from FC Metz, in France.

Now, he hones his attacking talents alongside Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente, Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella. It is some company.

“Since I joined Juventus, I’m progressing and my football is getting better,” he said.

“I’m experiencing the Uefa Champions League at a young age and it is very interesting. I’m learning a lot, already training with the first team, with guys like Llorente and Tevez.

“It makes me very happy to play with such payers, who are such stars, and winning lots of trophies. It’s exciting.”

While his wide-eyed enthusiasm is understandable, it belies a skill set wise beyond his 17 years.

That much was evident during the World Cup, when Bnou Marzouk ably carried Morocco’s ambitions of crowning a first tournament appearance with a piece of unexpected silverware. He envisaged a place in last Friday’s showpiece event at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, at least.

However, a 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast punctuated those plans, even though Bnou Marzouk’s equaliser provided hope.

“We tried our best,” he said. “We could’ve gone on and scored another, but they scored instead from nowhere. We really wanted to win the game. If we’d won, we could have gone to the final.”

So he returns to Turin with his dreams vanquished but reputation enhanced. Three goals in 215 minutes of football in the UAE portrayed his ability, the double in the Group C clash against Panama highlighting just how good Bnou Marzouk can be.

The first exhibited his power and pace, while the second his precision — a beautifully curled effort inside the far post.

Bnou Marzouk cites Radamel Falcao as a role model, but in full flow he conjures images of a nascent Thierry Henry. Like the French luminary, Bnou Marzouk was converted from a winger to a more central role.

That he will eventually take centre stage at Juventus is far from certain — the club have long maintained a policy of loaning out young talent to lower-table Serie A clubs — but, unbowed, Bnou Marzouk still harbours real aspirations.

“It’s very difficult for me to find my place and push into the team,” he said. “But I will continue to try through hard work and perseverance.”

For one, Abdellah El Idrissi, his coach for Morocco, believes his star pupil will only thrive at a club of Juventus’ stature.

“No doubt Younes is a quality player,” he said. “Juventus is not Metz, so when players go there it is impossible for them not benefit. He has improved and will continue to improve.”

As his exertions during the past month highlighted, Bnou Marzouk is swiftly on the rise.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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