What happened to Zakaria Bakkali: a decade after being given the highest potential in FIFA 14 career mode
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At one stage, a teenage Zakaria Bakkali was one of the most wanted players in world football.
A flurry of high-profile European clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham, were said to be interested after the highly-rated Belgian forward made a quite spectacular start to life at Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.
Just four days after his much-anticipated Eredivisie debut against ADO Den Haag on the opening day of the 2013/14 campaign, Bakkali would score his first senior goal in the second-leg of a Champions League clash against Zulte. It was a sign of things to come.
Three days later, on August 10, he would become the youngest player in Eredivisie history to score a hat-trick, aged just 17 years and 196 days.
It was a moment that would catapult his name to a global audience. He would soon earn his first cap for Belgium in a 1-1 draw at home to Wales, with many urging then-manager Marc Wilmots to give him a chance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But even before bursting onto the international scene alongside Eden Hazard, Bakkali was already earning a reputation amongst gamers in the FIFA community after EA Sports decided to hand the youngster a potential rating of 90 on Career Mode.
Those who worked at EA clearly spotted his potential. Despite starting the game with a fairly average overall rating of 73, the teenager would eventually become one of the world's best players on FIFA 14, with his much-coveted four-star weak foot and four-star skill moves an obvious perk.
"Of all the FIFA 14 future stars we’ll look at, PSV’s Zakaria Bakkali has the most potential, topping out at a massive 90 overall," EA wrote on their official website in October 2013.
"It takes him a while to get to that level of course, but the good news is that he feels great to use right from the start of the game, thanks to his high Acceleration, Sprint Speed and Dribbling. You can sign him in the first summer transfer window for around £6 million."
That's right. For just £6 million, players could snap up a talent for the ages. Unfortunately in real life, however, things didn't quite pan out that way. After a transfer to Atletico Madrid fell through in 2014, Bakkali turned down a contract offer from PSV in a bid to push through a move.
Liverpool were said to be in "pole position" to sign the pacey winger, according to Dutch publication Sport Magazine, who reported that the Reds were the only club committed to forking out his £6.3 million valuation. A number of Premier League clubs were interested, as previously mentioned.
But after a lengthy period of rumours and speculation, Bakkali joined Valencia in the summer of 2015.
"I'm very young and for me this is a great step to join a club like Valencia CF that has tradition and a high level," he told the club's official website. "The Primera Division is an attractive and competitive league."
Bakkali added: "Since I decided to move on from PSV and conclude my chapter there, I've had many offers but Valencia and the Spanish league is a dream come true for me."
It may have been a dream come true but his spell at Valencia would come to an end in 2018. Bakkali made a total of 57 appearances in La Liga, which includes a season-loan with Deportivo during the 2017/18 campaign. It was a slightly disappointing end all things considered.
That being said, the talented forward would join Belgian giants Anderlecht and again, he would show glimpses of brilliance during his time at The Constant Vanden Stock.
But he was restricted to just 24 appearances in a four-year spell that included a loan move to Beerschot.
Following a short spell as a free agent following his release by Anderlecht in 2022, he would return to the Eredivisie on August 3 to play for RKC Waalwijk.
”Zakaria’s talent is undeniable and it is an important pillar," general director Frank van Mosselveld said on the RKC club website. "We as RKC Waalwijk are happy to offer him this opportunity and he is keen to show his qualities.”
The 27-year-old has so far made six appearances for Henk Fraser's side this season.