The first national team call-ups of the 23/24 season have Saudi Arabia as a common denominator. The country that concentrates the most football stars is also one of the leagues with the most presence in any national team and Morocco was not going to be less with Yassine Bounou as a key player recently arrived at Al Hilal.
The former Sevilla goalkeeper has stated from his training camp with Morocco that "what I understand is that the board analysed the situation, they saw that I could go to the African Cup and miss a lot of games in an important month for Real Madrid and it wasn't possible. Besides, they had other options that they could manage on loan that suited them better".
This is the explanation for his frustrated signing by Real Madrid, who in the end ended up using Kepa Arrizabalaga on loan to cover for Courtois' serious injury.
Bono made it clear to Real Madrid that his priority is Morocco and the African Cup to be held between January and February 2024 in Côte d'Ivoire. A tournament that should have been played between June and July 2023, something that would have collapsed the calendar in a season where the World Cup was also played with Morocco as fourth classified.
His departure from Sevilla to a lesser league was widely criticised, but the goalkeeper defended himself by explaining the situation: "I felt that it was a time when I had done a lot of things at the club and it was time to leave. I felt that I had given everything I had inside me for Sevilla and to stay would be like tarnishing a little bit everything that was done, I didn't have the same energy".
The sacrifice made by Bono and En-Nesyri has been a major one because African players devalue their value as the Africa Cup of Nations is played in the middle of the season. This causes them to miss an average of 10 games for their teams. Bono told the programme El Pelotazo that "the African Cup has had a big influence on this market, both for me and for En-Nesyri. Right now it's difficult to invest in people like me, 32 years old, it's not easy, for Bayern and for any other team. At that moment I was waiting and the offer from Al-Hilal came in".
The third best goalkeeper in the world defended the Moroccan striker and commented on why he had not left Seville. "It has nothing to do with me leaving and him wanting to leave, it has nothing to do with that. Youssef is in another situation, he still has challenges with himself that he has to meet in the Spanish LaLiga. Hopefully he can beat a couple of records that he has there pending. He had offers, I spoke to him and his agent and he had proposals from other teams, but he can't change Sevilla for just anything. He has a history there. He's not going to leave Sevilla to go on loan to Milan".
Now they face the challenge of beating Liberia to complete their bid to reach next year's CAF finals.