Once a Germany U21 international and now off to the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco, bundesliga.com lifts the lid on Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Aymen Barkok.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Country: Morocco (14 caps/ one goal)
Barkok made a dramatic introduction to Bundesliga football in November 2016, climbing from the bench to hit a 90th-minute winner for Frankfurt at Werder Bremen on the then 18-year-old's senior debut. By January the following year, Barkok made his full debut as he started the 1-0 win over Schalke, and a month later had successfully lasted 90 minutes in Frankfurt's DFB Cup quarter-final success over Arminia Bielefeld. Six days on from his 19th birthday, Barkok was an unused substitute as Frankfurt lost the final to Borussia Dortmund and he closed out a first professional campaign with 19 appearances, two goals and two assists to his name in all competitions.
The following season saw the 5'9" midfielder's 18 Bundesliga outings in 2016/17 halved to nine, but Frankfurt did go one better as they lifted the DFB Cup. Barkok played 45 minutes of Frankfurt's cup-winning campaign, but was not in the squad for the final against Bayern Munich and was an unused substitute in three of the six rounds. Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, Barkok was loaned out to Fortuna Düsseldorf, where he featured 18 times across the next two seasons before returning to Frankfurt in the summer of 2020. The most productive year of his career followed, with Barkok registering two goals and three assists across 26 matches of Frankfurt's 34-game league campaign.
Barkok is of Moroccan descent, but was born and raised in Frankfurt. The former Kickers Offenbach youth player, who was picked up by the Eagles at 15, represented Germany at U16 right through to U21 level. He ultimately earned 16 youth international caps - and scored one goal - for Germany before opting to represent Morocco at senior level. Barkok was handed his Atlas Lions debut on 9 October 2020, teeing up Youssef En-Nesyri for Morocco's second goal in a 3-1 win over Senegal. He grabbed a first senior international goal of his own against Guinea-Bissau in 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup qualifying in October 2021 and heads to the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations with 14 caps to his name.
Plays a bit like: Jay-Jay Okocha
Barkok has been likened to Frankfurt and Bundesliga legend Jay-Jay Okocha on account of his quick feet and trickery in the final third. Like Okocha, he also boasts a keen eye for a pass. Barkok will be hoping he can follow in the dancing feet of his illustrious predecessor and lift the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 2022, an honour Okocha claimed at the 1994 edition with Nigeria.
Watch: Jay-Jay Okocha's wondergoal against Oliver Kahn
Did you know?
In another life, Barkok may have been a hairdresser.
"When I was young, I always used to cut my brother's hair," he told Eintracht's official YouTube channel as he gave them a tour of the northern part of the city where he grew up. "Maybe I could have thought about [a career as a hairdresser] in the past. As a fall back option after my studies maybe, but not anymore. Maybe once my career's over, you never know!"
What they’re saying
"Aymen is a very quick player, but also a very intelligent one." - ex-Eintracht head coach Adi Hütter
"He is a dream footballer, a great guy. If you look at his qualities, it's fair to say Frankfurt have a gem in their ranks." - former Frankfurt head coach Niko Kovac