In 2019, the u17 European Championship was hosted in Ireland. The best prospects from Europe faced off, with some notable names participating. However, in the end, one player was clearly on a different level: Adil Aouchiche. The French prospect put up some incredible numbers despite France losing in the semi-finals to Italy.
Four games were all it took for Aouchiche to make history. He scored once in the opener versus England, then a hat trick against Sweden, then one more goal against the Netherlands, and then four more against the Czech Republic. After four matches, the midfielder had scored nine times — more than anyone else in the tournament’s history. France’s semi-final loss to Italy was the only game he didn’t find the back of the net, and he was selected to the Team of the Tournament.
Five months later, he was at it again for France — this time in the u17 World Cup. While they again lost in the semi-finals, Aouchiche had another stellar tournament, scoring once and assisting seven goals.
At club level, things were going well. Despite PSG’s star power, the young Frenchman was breaking into the side. He became the sixth-youngest player in the club’s history after starting against Metz (he’s now eighth) at the age of 17, just behind the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Kingsley Coman. In his second match, he also scored his first goal for the club to become PSG’s second-youngest goalscorer (now third).
However, PSG is known for not always giving young players the minutes they deserve. When his PSG contract expired in 2020, he joined historic side AS Saint-Étienne. Aouchiche was also named as a nominee for the Golden Boy Award, the best young player, that same summer.
Saint-Étienne looked like the perfect move for Aouchiche. He could learn from well-known manager Claude Puel, as well as the club’s experienced veterans like Wahbi Khazri and Ryad Boudebouz. Additionally, while the ten-time league champions battled relegation the previous season, they had finished in fourth just one year earlier.
Aouchiche had a great first season with his new club. The versatile midfielder started 21 matches in Ligue 1 and played 34 total, scoring twice and assisting five goals. He improved on and off the ball as Saint-Étienne finished in eleventh, comfortably safe from relegation.
In his second season, things took a turn. Typically when clubs are battling relegation, they give more playing time to veterans, rather than young players — hoping experience can help them avoid the drop. As a result, his minutes diminished despite no clear downturn in form, with Aouchiche making just 11 starts. Despite the limited opportunities, he still got four assists.
Saint-Étienne then faced Auxerre in the relegation play-off, and Aouchiche assisted the opener, laying the ball off to teammate Zaydou Youssouf, who found the back of the net. Unfortunately, Auxerre scored a late equalizer. Aouchiche was subbed after 60 minutes in the second leg, and Saint-Étienne lost on penalties — confirming relegation to Ligue 2.
The Frenchman didn’t want to drop down to the second tier, while Saint-Étienne didn’t play him much at the beginning of the season. His salary was also quite high for the second tier — somewhere around €100k per month. A departure was necessary for both parties, and Aouchiche left for free at the end of the transfer window, joining Ligue 1 side Lorient last September.
After two consecutive seasons of battling relegation, few predicted anything much different for FC Lorient last season. However, relegation was no problem for Lorient, who got off to an incredible start for Ligue 1 and even looked like they could be surprise title candidates.
Between injuries and the club’s strong start, Aouchiche couldn’t work his way into the lineup. Whereas Saint-Étienne had been too bad for him to play, Lorient was (surprisingly) too good, and, even though they faded down the stretch and finished tenth, he just never earned playing time. By the end of the year, he had started just one match and played only eleven in total. He also missed out on France’s side for the u20 World Cup, which crashed out in the group stages.
Aouchiche is a very talented player, but luck hasn’t been on his side. He looked like he could establish himself with Saint-Étienne, but the club’s struggles forced him out, and he just couldn’t play at Lorient. Still just 20 years old, he has been linked with an exit, possibly on loan. What he needs is consistent playing time — then he can work himself back up to France’s elite.