World Cup breakout star exciting Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani as Victor Orta adds context
and live on Freeview channel 276
Azzedine Ounahi, a 22-year-old midfielder for Ligue 1 side Angers, has started every game of the tournament for Morocco and played a big part in their shock journey to the semi-finals.
His performances have been sufficient to prompt enquiries and expressions of interest to Angers chairman Said Chabane, who told RMC Sport: "Is the phone ringing? It's ringing quite a lot."
Ounahi's entire club career has taken place in France and though Orta was previously aware of the youngster - even if Radrizzani was not - the Spaniard has been shocked and impressed by what has transpired in Qatar.
"I’m going to be honest, I’ll mention a name - Ounahi, the Morocco number 8," Orta told Spanish outlet Marca.
"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."
Although major international tournaments can be springboards for club careers and Qatar 2022 will be no different, Orta prefers to view a player through a wider lens.
"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," he said.
"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."
Orta believes it's possible that Ounahi's World Cup involvement could be the blue touch paper for his club career but is adamant that what preceded the tournament for the midfielder has made his Qatar exploits entirely unexpected.
"Maybe this World Cup helps him to be seen in a different way and have a different career path, because now he has generated that psychological, motivational confidence to show that he is capable in the shop window of the World Cup, but if any sporting director of the top five leagues including the French league where he plays, said that they knew he was going to do this, they’d be lying."
The World Cup might still do wonders for the careers of individuals but its impact on the sport's financial matters when it comes to transfers is waning, Orta believes.
Gone are the days when a breakout player's value can skyrocket, because clubs are so aware of what is going on in club football prior to international tournaments.
"I’ll use an example of our own: Tyler Adams," said Orta.
"He was, for me, already having a great season at Leeds. Maybe having a good season at Leeds isn’t as in the spotlight as going to the USMNT and playing at that level of a World Cup, it’s good for us.
"I think it was more influential in the past: 1990/94/96/98/02, it was more influential because there was less information but the tsunami of information that we have, of big data, the biggest events have less influence I think. And this goes a little ‘against myself’ in terms of Cody Gakpo. He is definitely on another level to before but that’s not the same as it was before. Now it’s not so influential, the level of performance in the big tournaments."
Orta was speaking to Radio Marca in an interview translated for the YEP by Joe Brennan.