With all the recent changes at Barcelona and the high profile arrivals of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Thomas Vermaelen, the emergence of Munir El Haddadi into the first team could have gone unnoticed. But the young Spanish striker of Moroccan descent decided that he wanted to enter the fray with a big splash rather than sliding in under the radar. And how he did that. Under new head coach Luis Enrique, who joined the club in the summer from Celta de Vigo, Munir El Haddadi (or Munir for short) has been given the chance to shine in the Barcelona first team and has taken it well. Munir was a surprise starter in Barcelona’s opening league fixture of the new La Liga season against Elche but was quick to show the fans why Enrique was so keen to do so. Playing on the left hand side of a three man attack along with Lionel Messi and fellow youngster Rafinha, Munir played a key role in Barcelona’s opening goal, scored of course by Messi before getting on the score sheet himself with a fine finish just after the half time interval. By the 67th minute, Luis Enrique had seen enough of his new star and substituted him for Pedro, allowing Munir the opportunity to gain a rousing round of applause from the Barca fans as he exited the pitch. It was a day that Munir will never forget.
A product of the Barcelona youth system after he was snapped up from Atletico Madrid aged 16, Munir has only been playing for a short time but already looks like a seasoned professional. At 5ft 10inches, Munir is surprisingly quick with great footwork and a sharp eye for goal as he demonstrated early on in his career. Munir first caught the eye in 2010 on loan at Rayo Majadohonda in Spain’s fourth division where he scored 32 goals from 29 matches. This strike rate for someone so young attracted interest from Real Madrid and Manchester City but it was Barcelona who stepped in to sign him in the end. Their decision to do so was repaid last season when Munir played a starring role in the clubs UEFA Youth League victory with the youngster finishing as top scorer, including a stunning brace in the final against Benfica. He was quickly promoted to Barcelona’s B team early this year and continued his form scoring four times in eleven games. With the arrival of Luis Enrique came Munir’s chance to step up to the first team. Enrique, a former Barcelona player himself, wanted to build a squad with a mix of experienced professionals and talented youngsters so his first stop was to Barcelona’s famed production line – their youth team. Top of the list for promotion to the first team was Munir. Barcelona B team head coach Eusebio Sacristán sang his praises to Enrique and before long Munir was training with the first team and now part of Enrique’s long term plans. Munir had arrived.
International football was always on the cards for this talented youngster but few suspected it to arrive so quickly. After deciding to play for his country of birth, Spain rather than that of his fathers, Morocco Munir made himself available for selection. Little did he know that the call from Spanish Head Coach Vicente Del Bosque would come so soon. Only two weeks after making his senior debut for Barcelona, Munir was heading to Valencia to join up with the Spanish national team as they prepared to take on Macedonia in their opening European Championships qualifying game. Named as a substitute in the game, Munir soaked up the atmosphere as he sat back to watch the match unfold. As this was his first exposure to the team, he anticipated that he would be a spectator for the match, using it as a learning exercise to prepare him for a future appearance. But Del Bosque had other ideas. With Spain 4-1 and cruising towards three points, the call came for Munir to warm up; he was going on for his full debut. On the 77th minute, Munir gained his first cap coming on for Atletico Madrid’s Koke, again to a round of applause. It capped a stunning few weeks for the youngster who is now looking to build upon both his Barcelona and Spain appearances in the upcoming months. Competition of places at both club and country will be tough but for this mature young man, nothing appears to faze him. Munir is up for the challenges that lie ahead including cementing his spot in Barcelona’s starting eleven. A tough task but one he is very much ready to take on.