Barcelona“Chadi never says he plays for Barça. When they ask him where he plays, he still says that Atlético Rafal”, a club in the humble neighborhood of Son Gotleu in Palma, where he grew up and began to take his first steps as a footballer. This is explained to ARA by Diego Vilches, one of Chadi Riad’s best friends (2003). The Balearic centre-back, of Moroccan parents, made his debut with Barça’s first team on November 8, in the last game before the stoppage for the World Cup, which ended with Barca winning 1-2 against Osasuna. “When he trains with the first team or enters a call-up, he takes away his importance and tells us that we don’t need to watch the game because he won’t play,” continues Diego. On the night of November 8 he paid attention to him and the debut surprised him having dinner with the couple in a McDonald’s. “When I called him after the game we almost started crying. I told him: “You did it, uncle”.
It was the third time that Xavi Hernández called him. Previously, he had also entered the list against Celta de Vigo and Almeria. The debut was not easy at all. Chadi entered the field of play in the 89th minute, replacing Pedri. Osasuna was desperately looking for the equalizer and the Barcelona coach had run out of first team resources in the central area of the defense. Ronald Araujo and Jules Koundé were at home injured, Andreas Christensen had already been replaced because he was coming off an injury and Eric Garcia was on the bench for the same reason. As if that wasn’t enough, Gerard Piqué had been sent off at half-time for protesting on the day of his retirement as a footballer. In fact, Chadi’s partner in the center line was a left back, Marcos Alonso. But the 19-year-old fulfilled his role with flying colors and, after the World Cup, he could become the fifth central player of the first team given the impossibility of signing a replacement for Piqué during the winter market for fair play finance.
Diego and Chadi met in the second year stage at San Francisco, another club on the island, to which he was loaned by Mallorca during the 2015-2016 season, in the second year youth stage . “I knew him as a rival and before I started playing I thought he was bad because he went with his shoelaces untied. But I quickly changed my mind. To get a ball as a center he made one roulette and a cassock and it turned out well,” says Diego. Since then, Chad’s physique has changed a lot. “When he signed for Barça (in 2019 as a youth) he was quite thin. On the other hand, he is now very strong and has made a good stretch (he is 1.87 meters). He loves being called “mini Araujo”, he says.
At that stage in San Francisco he was trained by David Muñoz, currently a physical education teacher and coach of the National youth team of the same club. “Chadi was a second-year boy, but he was already playing with Cadet A. In other words, he was competing against boys two years older than him,” explains Muñoz to ARA. “He stood out for being a very technical player with a good ball exit from the back. In addition, he dominated the aerial game and prevailed due to speed in defensive duels, using his body perfectly”, he says. “Off the field he was a polite, natural, simple and a bit introverted guy. On the other hand, in the field he had great maturity and personality. He was a leader”, he adds. His great performance caused Mallorca to repechage him at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.
The professional debut, with Sabadell
Between his arrival at Barça in 2019 and his debut with the first team in 2022, there was a transfer to Sabadell’s youth team during the 2020-2021 season. And Antonio Hidalgo gave him his debut with the first team, which was then in the Second Division. Chadi, aged just 17, played as a substitute against Lugo in La Liga and as a starter against Ibiza in the Copa del Rey. “He did the pre-season with us and, since we had a shortage in the central position, we decided to bet on him”, explains Hidalgo to this newspaper. “He is a left-wing centre-back, fast, bold, who dominates space, strong in the air and who knows when to divide and when not to. These are qualities that are hard to find. The fact of having his family far away made him mature before his peers”, he adds.
The holidays ofChristmas in Morocco
Chadi’s immediate family currently lives in Palma, but his father comes from Casablanca and his mother from Larraix. In fact, Chad has dual nationality and has already made his debut with a goal for Morocco’s under-20 team. “We still have a lot of family living in Morocco. We will take advantage of the Christmas holidays to go see them, because that is what Chadi wanted”, explains Sami, the younger brother. His matches with Chad at his parents’ house caused damage to some paintings. “They got very angry and punched all the balls we had”, he says laughing. When we were little, we also played a lot in the street and I think this shows in the way he plays.” At the moment, no one has told Chadi his future as a footballer.