Former Algeria striker Rabah Madjer made a bold prediction in September. ‘Yacine Brahimi,’ he said, ‘can have a bigger influence on Porto than I did.’ That is quite a statement, as Madjer scored perhaps the most fabled goal in the Portuguese club’s history, the back-heeled finish that helped win Porto their first European Cup in 1987 in the final against Bayern Munich.
Like Madjer, Brahimi has been influential in guiding Porto to the last eight of the Uefa Champions League season. Like Madjer, he took part in a memorable victory over Bayern, a 3-1 first leg shock against the German champions. The return leg, last Tuesday’s 6-1 loss, emphatically killed off Porto’s hopes, however. Brahimi’s focus is now firmly on a domestic target, with Sunday’s match against Benfica, who stand at the top of the Portuguese table, three points ahead of Porto, looking decisive in the outcome of the title.
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Brahimi, a skilled dribbler and creator, has had an excellent season in the young Porto squad he joined last summer from Spain’s Granada. He has caught the eye of a number of club recruiters from wealthier leagues, including Bayern, and Manchester City. Porto, shrewd operators in the transfer market and co-owners of Brahimi in a third-party arrangement, have tagged a €50 million (Dh199.6m) release clause on his contract. They would accept less but would expect to make a huge profit on the €6.5m they paid Granada.
Brahimi hit five goals in the Champions League this season, including a hat-trick against BATE Borisov. His performances on the most elevated theatres have raised his profile. He had an eye-catching World Cup, for Algeria last summer as they reached the knockout stages, with Brahimi’s penetrating runs one of the principal weapons of the Desert Foxes.
Those displays contributed to Brahimi’s being voted BBC African Footballer of the Year for 2014, a respected award. Though he was born in Paris and represented France to Under-21 level, he chose to play for Algeria, where his parents were born, in 2013. Africa has gained a potential superstar thanks to that decision. Porto know they will be strongly enticed to say goodbye to one in the coming months.
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