From impressing friends with his footballing tricks in a Madrid park to gaining the acclamation of thousands at the Colovray Stadium, FC Barcelona attacker Munir El Haddadi is enjoying a rapid rise to prominence with the team of his dreams.
The affable 18-year-old registered 11 of Barcelona's 32 goals as the Blaugrana lifted the Lennart Johansson trophy as the inaugural winners of the UEFA Youth League. His second strike in Monday's 3-0 final victory against SL Benfica – watched by a huge crowd in Nyon and many more on Eurosport – was an extraordinary effort from 50 metres that encapsulated the forward's sharp thinking and on-field confidence.
"I always try to shoot from the halfway line," El Haddadi said. "I saw one of my team-mates breaking forward, looked at their goalkeeper and then just had a go. It's something that will be very difficult to repeat."
In his third season at Barcelona, El Haddadi is a regular with the club's Juvenil A side – the team that competed with 31 others from across the continent in this term's UEFA Youth League. He has also featured four times this year for Barcelona B in the Spanish second division and owes much of his progress to those closest to him. "I'd like to dedicate [Monday's victory] to my family and those that surround me," he said.
Impressed by his son's footballing abilities in the park beside the family's home town of El Escorial in the Comunidad de Madrid, El Haddadi's Moroccan father decided to bring his son to local club CD Galapagar. A trial with Club Atlético de Madrid followed before El Haddadi settled at CF Rayo Majadahonda, notching 32 goals in 29 games during the 2010/11 regional campaign.
Displaying myriad skills with both feet and a powerful shot to add to eye-catching heading prowess, El Haddadi was soon spotted by Barcelona scouts who reported back favourably to club headquarters. The 16-year-old subsequently found himself among the famed surroundings of La Masia in 2011. Once there, he did not disappoint, claiming 22 goals in his first campaign as the Juvenil Bs won their league, a feat they repeated with El Haddadi's help the following season.
Coach Jordi Vinyals then welcomed the attacker into the Juvenil As and – after agreeing terms on a new Barça deal in January tying him to Camp Nou until June 2017 – El Haddadi went on to finish as the 2013/14 UEFA Youth League's 11-goal top scorer.
"We knew we had a good team [going into the semi-finals and final played in Switzerland]," he said after their European success. "I'm very happy. We deserve our win for the work we've put in during the season. I am proud to form part of this club; this is where I hope to continue growing."
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