- Mohamed 'Moha' Moukhliss scored Spain’s opener versus Korea DPR
- The creative midfielder plays for Real Madrid’s youth team
- His most treasured possession is a Zinedine Zidane jersey
Spain midfielder Mohamed Moukhliss enjoyed a memorable night in Kochi on Friday, helping to propel his country to the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 by scoring a fine opening goal in their 2-0 Group D victory over Korea DPR.
However, as per usual, his contribution amounted to much more than just one successful attack; 'Moha', as he prefers to be known and the name that appears on the back of his jersey, provides the creative spark at the heart of this Spanish side, just like his role model did in his heyday.
“I got into football because of Zinedine Zidane,” the talented 17-year-old told FIFA.com. “The day I received a Real Madrid top signed by him as a gift, I knew that I wanted to be a footballer.”
He continued: “I must have been four or five. I got it from a friend of my father, and since then, I’ve looked after it carefully in my room like a piece of treasure. It’s the first thing I see when I get up, when I go to training or when I go to school. People can look at it when they visit, but no-one’s ever allowed to touch it.”
Something else that is almost impossible for others to get near to are the pinpoint balls that he distributes to his compatriots. “I just do what the boss tells me to do,” he said. “My role is to help my team-mates make and receive the best possible passes. That’s why sometimes I show them when and where I want them to pass, just like they do to me. We look for the best solutions that suit everyone.”
The Spaniards appear to have regained the spring in the their step that saw them crowned European champions in May after slipping up against Brazil in their opening match of India 2017. “We’ve finally adapted to the weather, and that’s helped,” explained Moha. “We played well against the North Koreans. That’s the way we need to play in the games around the corner.”
Moha dons the No8 jersey for Spain and shares central midfield duties with Antonio Blanco, who wears the No6. Both young men are on the books of Real Madrid, they have an excellent understanding on the pitch, and they have been compared to Xavi and Iniesta in the way that they set the pace in the middle of the park.
“The comparison pops up now and again because of the numbers we wear and because we play for the same club team, just like they did when they played for Spain. But they’re a different class of footballer, and I admire them greatly, of course. I hope that we’ll turn out to be half the players they were,” he said modestly.
Did you know?
- Moha on his roots: “My parents are Moroccan, but I was born in Spain and have lived there all my life. That’s why I chose to represent this jersey.”
- On his relationship with Zidane today. “I know him a little – we cross paths at Real’s training complex. We chat a little; he’s a good person. He’s still my idol.”
- On another jersey he possesses: “Alvaro Morata’s Juventus shirt, when he played in the final of the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid.”
- On a jersey he would like to own: “Isco’s. He’s another one I look up to, both at Real and when he’s playing for Spain. One day, I’ll build up the courage to ask him!”
- On an aspect of his game that he is pleased with: “I think fast, I see the action developing two to three seconds before it happens.”
- On an aspect he needs to improve: “Everything. I’m only 17; I have to improve everything.”