who is Zidane Iqbal, this impressive young midfielder against Liverpool?

who is Zidane Iqbal, this impressive young midfielder against Liverpool?


Manchester United crushed Liverpool in a pre-season match organized Tuesday in Thailand (4-0). A meeting during which Zidane Iqbal made a remarkable entrance with the Red Devils. The 19-year-old Manchester-born midfielder and Iraq international impressed with his serenity and technical quality.

A dream baptism. For his first outing on the Manchester United bench, Erik ten Hag offered himself a prestigious success on Tuesday against Liverpool. The Red Devils crushed their big rivals in a pre-season match organized at the Rajamangala stadium, east of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand (4-0). In the humid heat of the Asian summer, Raphaël Varane’s teammates corrected the very reworked but nevertheless dominating Reds (18 shots).

Ten Hag took advantage of this festival to launch Zidane Iqbal in the second half. The 19-year-old midfielder replaced Fred as his side trailed 3-0. And his entry did not go unnoticed. In an axial role, the n°55 made his talent appreciated in the midfield. His ball-to-foot serenity, his sense of placement and his quality of passing have done his training a lot of good. Despite his inexperience, the 1.88m right-hander (who became the first South Asian to play for United) looked Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho in the eye. With a rather bluffing assurance.

No Premier League games

What ignite the Mancunian fans, who largely debriefed his performance on the networks. Without always dosing. “The best Zidane in history”, for example wrote a supporter, relayed by the Daily Mail. This is obviously not the case. But it gives an idea of ​​the impression left by the one whose first name inevitably reminds football fans of Zizou. A priori, it is not a tribute, the first name “Zidane” (also spelled Zidan) being quite widespread in the Arab world. But he will certainly have to deal with this wink of fate during his career.

While waiting to be able to compare himself to the 1998 Ballon d’Or, Iqbal is already enjoying his first important match with his training club. After the meeting, he thanked his fans on Instagram (where he already has nearly 500,000 subscribers) by posting a photo of a jersey exchange with Mohamed Salah. His good start could well encourage Ten Hag to offer him playing time during the preparation. While waiting to introduce him to the Premier League in a few months.

One minute in the Champions League

Born in the Whalley Range region, near Manchester, Zidane Iqbal joined the Red Devils academy at the age of 9. Despite enticing performances as a youngster, he has yet to play in an English league game. On the other hand, he came into play in the Champions League last December (his only pro appearance). Ralf Rangnick launched it in added time against Youngs Boys Bern in the group stage (1-1). Time to tread the lawn of Old Trafford for a minute. Enough to provide an unforgettable memory.

“I learned it the day before the match. The coach came to see me and said to me: ‘You will not play with the U19s’, he told the MU website. I was a little surprised. I felt a lot of emotions in my body. As soon as the conversation was over, I called my mother, my father and my brother. I told them that there was a good chance that I would play with the first team. I dreamed of this day since I was little and to finally live it, it was just incredible. Honestly, if I could describe this feeling, I would but it’s really indescribable.”

He chose to play for Iraq

The following month, Iqbal made his big international debut by deciding to wear the shirt of Iraq (one of his two home countries), while he could also play for Pakistan and the England. Dick Adovcaat, the Dutch coach of the Iraq team, gave him his first minutes in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The hope of Manchester Utd entered during the matches in Iran (1-0) and in Lebanon (1-1). For a total of twenty cumulative minutes. Something to whet his appetite.

“I feel it’s the right decision for me in my career. It’s really an honor to represent Iraq, Iqbal said at that time. My family is proud of me and I just feel that I advance a little more in my career by participating in the qualifications for the World Cup. These are important matches. It’s a huge honor.”

“I would like to become a model”

After signing his first pro contract last year, young Zidane extended his lease with Manchester last month. Until 2025. Enough to secure his future and allow him to progress in a familiar cocoon. Without worrying too much about the media coverage that accompanies it.

“I don’t focus too much on it. I just enjoy the sport, I try not to think about it too much”, explained at the beginning of the year the one who is part of the Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme, an initiative created by the Players’ Union playing in England (Professional Footballers’ Association) whose aim is to increase the number of Asian players in the world of English professional football. “I would like to be a role model. There are a lot of people who tell me that I am one. I try to act like one, really. But I still have to focus on myself, I still have a lot to learn.”

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