It may not have been the domestic campaign he was hoping for, but young Malaga forward Youssef En-Nesyri is now headed for the World Cup after being called up for Morocco as a late replacement for defender Badr Banoun.
Despite being Morocco’s captain for the African Nations Championship, Banoun lost his place in the final 23-man squad for Russia as coach Herve Renard opted to accommodate an extra attacker.
The Fez-born striker, who became Malaga’s first-choice forward at the turn of the year, scored a total of four goals in 25 appearances this year during a campaign in which his side finished rock bottom.
En-Nesyri, 21, broke into the first team after a successful preseason under Juande Ramos ahead of the 2016-17 season. He scored six goals over the summer, earning him a contract extension and a promotion to the first-team set-up.
The Moroccan scored his first professional goal in September 2016, netting the winner in a 2–1 home victory against Eibar after coming on as a substitute for Charles, but only sporadic appearances, mainly off the bench, would follow for the remainder of that campaign.
However, this year, after a goal drought on the part of the Costa del Sol team, En-Nesyri was forced into the spotlight, usurping the likes of Borja Baston and Adalberto Penaranda.
Best known for his raw pace, coach Jose Gonzalez also sought to make use of his aerial prowess as his team favoured a more direct approach but ultimately he couldn’t save them from relegation.
En-Nesyri’s sights will now be firmly set on 25 June, when his Morocco side take on his adopted home nation of Spain.