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    Who should sign Azzedine Ounahi?

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    When the World Cup rolls around every four years, we all want to predict which previously unknown player is going to announce themselves at football’s top table.

    Whether it’s James Rodriguez bursting onto the scene with his golden boot-winning performances in 2014 or Michael Owen proving himself to be one of the world’s greatest back in 1998, there is always someone who uses the competition to go from zero to hero in the space of one month.

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    This year, there is no stronger contender for that title than Morocco’s Azzedine Ounahi.

    The 22-year-old midfielder was an entirely unknown quantity a month ago, playing his club football in France for Angers. Having helped to inspire Morocco to become the first African side ever to reach a World Cup semi-final, Ounahi is now the subject of interest from clubs all across Europe and a big transfer could soon be on the cards.

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    Where Ounahi goes next could be the biggest decision of his entire career and determine whether he blossoms into the star we saw in Qatar, or slides back into irrelevance over the coming years.

    So, without further ado: who should sign Azzedine Ounahi?

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    Between spending over £200m on new signings in the last 12 months and Eddie Howe’s genuinely impressive work getting the best out of his players, Newcastle’s squad looks a lot better than it did this time last year.

    All the same, their squad still lacks strength in depth and this is something they will need to address before becoming a true Premier League heavyweight. Ounahi would provide Howe’s side with better options in midfield, while his youth means he could grow into a superstar on Tyneside.

    Leicester are among the Premier League clubs reported to have sent their scouts to take a look at Ounahi. While his World Cup heroics might have just seen him move out of the Foxes’ price range, this could actually be a very sensible move for the Moroccan.

    While their season so far has been a mixed bag, Leicester have a good record when it comes to signing young players, improving them and selling them on for a large profit. With Youri Tielemans likely to move on in 2023, a space could be opening up in midfield for a bright-eyed young star like Ounahi.

    If ever a club needed some fresh blood in midfield, it’s Juventus.

    The Bianconeri have fallen on tough times and lack quality in midfield, with Paul Pogba injured and the likes of Fabio Miretti and Nicolo Fagioli still finding their feet in Turin.

    Their present financial situation might prevent a move for Ounahi materialising, but it would make a lot of sense if they could pull it off.

    I mean, why not, right?

    Like Juventus, Barcelona are, by all accounts, so financially crippled that a move for Ounahi might not be feasible. That said, they somehow managed to pull off one of the most decadent summers of transfer spending ever seen this year, so who knows?

    In terms of where he fits into the side, it’s no secret that Frenkie de Jong and Franck Kessie are among the players Barca want to move on in the new year. There could be space for another midfielder with Ounahi’s creative ability – that is, if he’s happy to compete with Gavi and Pedri for game time.

    Liverpool haven’t been linked with Ounahi to the same extent as the other clubs on this list, but it could be a perfect match.

    Jurgen Klopp’s side is in dire need of new legs in midfield, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara fading fast. Ounahi would provide some much-needed creativity in midfield, while being combative enough to function in Klopp’s heavy metal pressing system. Surely that’s a win-win for everyone?

    Conclusion

    After his displays in Qatar, it seems Ounahi will have his pick of suitors come January. Meanwhile, Angers president Said Chabane has confirmed he is keen to negotiate a deal for the midfielder as quickly as possible and cash in while Ounahi’s stock is high, meaning it should be easy enough for a club to get a deal done.

    But which club is the best match for a player of Ounahi’s talents?

    While a move to a European giant such as Barcelona or Juventus will always carry a certain allure, the financial peril and scattergun transfer policy of these clubs in recent years makes joining them a serious risk. If that wasn’t bad enough, neither club is performing at the level they are accustomed to and can’t even guarantee a strong push for the Champions League title these days.

    If we were in Ounahi’s shoes, we’d prioritise long-term stability and growth over the biggest name. Leicester have a strong track record with signings of Ounahi’s profile, and with signings from Ligue 1 in general. They could provide a strong platform for the midfielder to develop his career – but would this be ambitious enough? There is no way of knowing if Ounahi’s stock will ever be this high again, and it could be his only chance to get a move to a ‘big’ club. Leicester, meanwhile, have struggled for consistency over the last two years and cannot guarantee European football now or in the near future.

    Taking all of this into account, 90min believes that Newcastle could be the perfect move for Ounahi at this moment in time. While the Magpies are now one of the world’s richest clubs, they are still developing on and off the pitch and are a long way from becoming a major heavyweight in the competitive sense.

    Eddie Howe has predominantly sought to bring in young, hungry players with room in their careers to develop. With Howe’s track record for improving players young and old, Ounahi would be getting round-the-clock attention from one of the most promising coaches in the English game and this could do wonders for his career. On top of all that, he would most likely be playing in European competition – potentially even the Champions League – from as soon as next season. What’s not to like?

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