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UEFA Champions League

African Superstar Explains Real Madrid Exit

A former Real Madrid fullback who was named in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament has explained why he thinks Los Blancos let him go.

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Paris Saint-Germain and Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi signed for the French giants at the beginning of the season for a reported €66 million (R1.1 billion), a fee that makes him the most expensive African defender in football history.

Prior to joining PSG, Hakimi had been sold by Real to Inter Milan. As part of that deal, the Spanish club included a buyback clause should the Nerazzurri decide to sell him, but when PSG came looking to sign him last year, Los Blancos declined the opportunity to activate the clause and let him go to Paris.

Hakimi had thought he would be integrated into Real's first XI after two years on loan at Borussia Dortmund. He would, instead, be sold to Inter before the 2020/21 season started.

Tuesday night's round of 16 clash in the UEFA Champions League against his former employers will be the first time he faces them since his permanent departure from the Santiago Bernabeu, and he opened up to Marca about his exit from the 13-time European champions ahead of the tie.

"Obviously, when you join Madrid for the first time and you come from playing for the Castilla (academy), it is normal that the club doesn't bet on you so much because you're a young player," Hakimi said.

"But then when I left for Dortmund and had two great seasons, I had to come back and decide.

"At that point, it felt like Madrid was still not betting on me, but I knew I could continue playing at a high level.

"When I left for Inter, as part of the deal there was also a purchase option from Madrid and they didn't execute it, so I think they weren't betting on me as much as other clubs.

"I thought they were wrong."

Hakimi, however, is grateful for the opportunity to get to work with Mauricio Pochettino in Paris now.

"Before I joined PSG, [Pochettino] was already in contact with me and he told me what he wanted from me and what I was going to do in the team," he added.

"It gave me peace of mind, but above all, freedom to feel important and play freely, which is what makes us reach this level."

Click through the gallery below to see the PSG's highest-paid players:






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