Eintracht Frankfurt "have a gem in their ranks" in Germany Under-19 midfielder Aymen Barkok, says the Bundesliga club's coach Niko Kovac – UEFA.com profiles the 18-year-old.
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Aymen Barkok added to his two Bundesliga goals in his debut professional season with one in last month's elite round as Germany qualified for the 2017 UEFA European Under-19 Championship.
Name: Aymen Barkok
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Debut: 20 November 2016 v Werder Bremen
Position: attacking midfielder
Date of birth: 21 May 1998
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"He is an athletic player with good technique. We are confident he will take that successful next step in his young career at our club."
Bruno Hübner, Eintracht sporting director
"You can tell he has a lot of great attributes. He is a dream footballer, a great guy. If you look at his qualities, it is fair to say Frankfurt have a gem in their ranks."
Niko Kovac, Eintracht coach
Born and bred in Frankfurt, Barkok shared mini-pitches with Liverpool and Germany midfielder Emre Can during his boyhood. He spent two years of his junior career at Eintracht's regional rivals Kickers Offenbach before returning, aged 15, to his home city.
A severe knee injury at the age of 17 proved only a temporary setback. Having featured for Germany's Under-16 and U17 teams, he made his debut for the U19s last month, opening his goalscoring account in his second outing, a 2-0 elite round win against Serbia.
Playing style ...
Quick, direct and a good dribbler, Barkok has all the attributes required to excel in an attacking midfield role. He has also learned to shift gears, adding guile and creativity to his game.
Shades of ...
The way he glides past opponents reminds Eintracht fans of Jay-Jay Okocha, who was a favourite at the club in the 1990s. A more contemporary comparison would be to Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka.
Eureka moment ...
Barkok had what certainly qualifies as a dream debut, hitting a 90th-minute winner away to Werder Bremen in November after coming off the bench with a quarter of an hour remaining. Exactly a month later he scored and provided an assist in a 3-0 derby victory over Mainz.
Best-case scenario ...
His youth coaches say Barkok had a tendency to be sloppy in training, but one day he flipped the switch. If he can maintain that eagerness to learn, Frankfurt could be a solid stepping stone towards greater things. His aerial power and defensive awareness need to improve, yet he is going in the right direction. And on the off-chance his career in football does not work out, Barkok is attending machine engineering classes whenever his schedule allows.
He says ...
"A dream has come true for me. To become a professional footballer at the age of 18 is amazing. I accept it won't be easy, but I will do everything in my power to create positive headlines."
On the day he signed a contract until 2020
"I was a ball boy in this stadium while many of the current players were on the pitch. It's unbelievable that I'm now playing with them. My hero was Zinédine Zidane. I cheered him on when I was just eight years old, and I still watch clips of him today."
Speaking to Frankfurter Rundschau