With Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo strutting their stuff on a weekly basis, La Liga is home to some of the world’s best ball players. This season, however, the lauded trio has been upstaged in the dribbling stakes by Granada midfielder Yacine Brahimi, who, as of April, had completed 152 successful runs with the ball out of 319 attempts.
“It’s something I’ve loved doing ever since I was a boy,” the Algeria ace told FIFA.com. “I’ve always got a kick out of watching skilful players who can get past their man with a single move.
“I spent a lot of time watching videos of players like Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane and trying to do the things they did in the matches we’d organise with my friends from the neighbourhood. They were the ones who made me want to play football and who pushed me to work on my technique.”
Born in Paris, Brahimi started out at France’s national football academy at Clairefontaine, a breeding ground for the country’s talented youngsters and where the likes of Thierry Henry, William Gallas and Nicolas Anelka all got a grounding in the game.
After learning the ropes, Brahimi joined Paris Saint-Germain, though his first real chance to make an impact in the professional game came at Stade Rennais. He spent four years there, interrupted by a spell on loan with second division Clermont, and scored nine goals in 52 appearances, while also breaking into France’s U-21 side.
My father was born there and I’m very proud to be representing my people. We are lucky enough to have wonderful fans who let you know how important it is to wear this jersey.
In 2012, Brahimi opted for a change of scene, leaving France for his current employers Granada: “I wanted to bounce back. I’d just had a disappointing season with Rennes and hadn’t played much because of injury. Granada was the best place for me to go and get my career back on track.”
The diminutive attacking midfielder enjoyed a promising first season with Les *Filipinos - *so promising in fact that the club’s directors took up the option to buy him ahead of the 2013/14 season.
It was a decision they would not regret, as Brahimi became one of the darlings of the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, chipping in with three goals and three assists as the club retained its top-flight status, one of those goals securing three vital points against Barcelona in April.
“I’m very happy here,” he said of his new home. “The game’s more skilful in Spain and it fits in with the type of player I am. Andalusia is a great region too and a wonderful place to live.”
Just across the Mediterranean lies the country of his ancestors, Algeria, which he finally decided to represent last year. “That’s where my roots are,” he said, explaining his choice. “My father was born there and I’m very proud to be representing my people. We are lucky enough to have wonderful fans who let you know how important it is to wear this jersey.”
Brahimi has made four appearances to date for Les Fennecs and impressed in each of them, prompting coach Vahid Halihodzic to name him in a 30-man provisional squad for Brazil 2014, which will shortly be reduced to 23.
Contemplating the chance to play at the global finals, the Granada man said: “Taking part in the World Cup is a childhood dream and the fact that it’s being held in Brazil just adds to it all. It is the home of football, after all.
“I’m not there yet, but it’s very satisfying to be one of the players under consideration. And no matter who goes in the end, the team will be giving its all. The Algerian people are proud but demanding too. The team has responsibilities and it will have to shoulder them.”
Brahimi’s repertoire of tricks and flicks could prove a valuable weapon for the Algerians when they take on their Group H opponents. “It’s a very tough group, with an excellent Belgium team, not to mention Russia and Korea Republic, who are both regular finalists,” said Brahimi, who is determined to make a telling contribution to the Fennec cause: “Dribbles are all very well, but the main thing is to make a difference.”