Achraf Lazaar’s bizarre 2020 takes another surprise turn – despite shambolic loan spell

The international break is always a pretty drab affair, but one of the stories that caught my eye was a surprise call-up for our forgotten man and one we can’t get rid of, Achraf Lazaar.

The left-back was selected for his country, Morocco, last week. It was his first call-up for FOUR years, yet I can’t quite work out how it’s come about considering he’s played NINE minutes of football since March.

After signing a 5-year deal (yes, 5-years!) back on 28th August 2016, he’s made precisely 10 appearances – 4 in the Championship, 1 in the Premiership, 3 in the FA Cup and 2 in the League Cup for The Toon in that time.

Three loan deals have also gained him a meagre 22 further appearances hardly with big-name teams. Benevento (9 appearances, 1 goal), Sheff Wed (4 appearances) and Serie B side Cosenza (9 apps 1 goal) have hardly had suitors lining up to take him, not to mention the aforementioned three clubs have clearly decided against signing him on a permanent deal.

It’s no surprise Cosenza didn’t want him, either. He made just FOUR starts (and was subbed off either at or before the break in TWO of those!), missed several games via illness or injury and was named on the bench 17 times for the Serie B side.

Add to that the fact he’s played just NINE minutes of football since COVID-19 came along, his first international call up for four years seems all the more odd!

Before coming to Newcastle, he did do well at Palermo with 59 Serie A appearances in his last two seasons in Italy before landing his move to Newcastle for an undisclosed fee (approx. £3.5m). But was he really a Rafa signing as he clearly didn’t play him and neither does Bruce?

But despite all that the native of Casablanca has managed to make 17 full international appearances for Morocco and earned a recall for the current international matches against Senegal and Congo. Last week, the Moroccans beat Senegal 3 – 1 with Lazaar an unused substitute and we wait to see if he’ll be used against Congo. But all this begs a question in my mind. What on earth has he done to earn the recall?

It’s a strange one and no mistake. Especially as we could probably do with a left back and Steve Bruce actually brought him to Sheffield Wednesday on loan just months before he took the job on Tyneside.

Nobody’s interested in playing him at Newcastle, he’s had three failed loan moves and no prospective buyers as a result – and yet his country needs him four years on from his last call up.

Go figure!

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