Leeds United director of football Victor Orta is adamant that no one knew Azzedine Ounahi would be a star at the FIFA World Cup.
The Spaniard, who has been working as a sporting director in football since 2013 says Ounahi’s breakout was a surprise to everyone. The Moroccan midfielder was playing for Avranches in the French Championnat (Division 3) in 2020. He joined Angers in 2021, and after a stellar campaign made his Morocco debut in the 2021 AFCON.
Ounahi went on to star for an impressive Morocco side that made history finishing fourth at this year’s edition. Victor Orta says he is shocked and impressed at how well the youngster played in Qatar. Speaking to Radio Marca (translated by YEP), Orta said:
“I’m going to be honest, I’ll mention a name – Ounahi, the Morocco number 8,”
“How many messages have I received about him? Even my President has messaged me! ‘Where was this guy? We haven’t seen him!’ Even the President! He’s probably been the breakout player, can we say that? I’ve known him for two seasons, this year he’s at Angers, and I’ve been surprised by his physical level.
He’s not been like that, I’m not saying he’s been lazy but I’m saying maybe the emotion is different, maybe he feels different playing in the Morocco shirt to the Angers one, where there’s a whole country behind you, your family.”
Orta on the difference between club and international football
The Spaniard went on to explain the difference between performances at club level and the national team:
“All of that makes you contextualise the performance and I don’t want to talk about [Toto] Schillaci in the 90s, [Gheorghe] Hagi…those one hit wonders, players who did brilliantly in a World Cup but their career wasn’t the same,”
“Ounahi is playing incredibly, in an incredible context, but you have to take him out of that context and see. It’s good to praise and say he’s performed well, but to sign a player for that after five games; I wish he could have a great career from that but I invite everyone to watch 20 Angers matches and see that maybe he’s a different player.”
Angers chairman Said Chabane says he has been receiving calls from big clubs, with the price of the 22-year old midfielder rumoured to be around £40million.