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CLOWN PRINCES

Said Benrahma is reaching Adel Taarabt levels of mockery in the Championship

The list is growing.

Toni Leistner of QPR, Reading’s Liam Moore, Barnsley duo Toby Sibbick and Jacob Brown, Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wing.

All have fallen victim to Said Benrahma’s powers of seduction, lured towards the ball in the hope of a tackle only to be deceived and nutmegged.

Kanye West – Touch the Sky ft. Lupe Fiasco

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Kanye West – Touch the Sky ft. Lupe Fiasco

Wing, the latest casualty of Benrahma’s cunning, spent the weekend enjoying the type of viral fame usually reserved for vegan sausage rolls, Oscars selfies and TikTok dance routines thanks to a ludicrous passage of play from Brentford’s no.10.

The 24-year-old found himself on the receiving end of two nutmegs in a matter of seconds- the first a smooth drag-back and roll, the second a long-range backheel- after coming to the aid of team-mate Jonny Howson.

Wing’s resigned leap in the air after the ball passed cleanly through his legs for a second time spoke of a man who knew he was bound for social media stardom.

If Wing needs a shoulder to cry on, he can always lean on Bristol City defensive midfielder Adamy Nagy.

Nagy, an international footballer with 34 caps for Hungary to his name, was immortalised in showboating history when Benrahma rainbow flicked the ball over his head during Brentford’s 4-0 win against Bristol City last January.

Despite playing against Europe’s best at Euro 2016, not to mention competing against the likes of Mohamed Salah and Paulo Dybala in Serie A, it was in the Championship, at the hands of Benrahma, that Nagy was most humbled by genius.

It was an audacious act from the Algerian international, the likes of which hasn’t been witnessed in the English second tier since a fellow North African made the Championship his playground in 2010.

Adel Taarabt was born in the Moroccan city of Fez, while Benrahma’s birthplace is a six-hour drive away in the city of Ait Temouchent, but the west London suburbs are where both really made a name for themselves.

It’s one of a number of similarities that link both players, starting with their emergence in European football. Like Benrahma, Taarabt’s first break in Europe came as a teenager in France.

Taarabt was 17 when he came off the bench for Lens during a 3-0 win against Souchaux in 2006, while seven years later an 18-year-old Benrahma came off the bench as Wissam Ben Yedder’s goal consigned Nice to a 1-0 defeat against Toulouse.

Both were also a similar age-, Taarabt was 21 while Benrahma was a year older, when they moved to west London permanently.

Bring back Lotto kits

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Bring back Lotto kits

But the main similarity between the pair is the joie de vivre they both display when the ball is at their feet.

Taarabt’s performances during the 2010/11 season, in which the Moroccan scored 19 goals to lead QPR back to the Premier League, were arguably the best individual displays ever to grace the Championship.

There have been greater outputs in terms of goals and assists, but the way in which Taarabt toyed with his opponents, nutmegging hardened veteran defenders at will, took the breath away.

The Championship isn’t traditionally a melting pot of mavericks, but Taarabt and Benrahma know no other way to play. A nutmeg or rainbow flick comes as naturally to the North Africans as a five-yard pass.

Get your chicken impression out for the lads

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Get your chicken impression out for the lads

There are, obviously, differences in the way the pair go about their business. Benrahma is a more of a wiry attacking presence than Taarabt, whose stockier frame has seen him re-trained as a defensive midfielder at Benfica this season.

His work-rate is also more noticeable than Taarabt’s was during his time in the Championship, although Neil Warnock constructed a side that allowed the Moroccan to roam at his leisure, both in attack and defence.

But, whether watching Benrahma or Taarabt, it’s impossible not to smile.

Benrahma’s task will now be to continue making a mockery of the Championship while firing Brentford back to the promised land of Super Sunday and VAR, as Taarabt did nine years ago.

One thing is for sure: there will be more victims of the Benrahma nutmeg to come.

Watch your ankles

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Watch your ankles

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