Ajaccio striker Khalid Boutaib eyes call-up to the Morocco team

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Ajaccio striker Khalid Boutaib
Ajaccio striker Khalid Boutaib

Gazelec Ajaccio striker Khalid Boutaib hopes his recent performances in the French top-flight will earn him a belated international call-up for Morocco.

The 28-year-old, who was born in France, is eligible to play for the Atlas Lions because his parents are Moroccan.

Boutaib has never won an international cap at any level in his ten-year career despite a decent goal scoring record - mostly in the French lower leagues.

Boutaib, who scored for newly promoted Ajaccio in their 2-1 away win at Bastia on Sunday, is confident a good season in France will press his claim for a Morocco chance.

"If I keep scoring goals like that on a regular basis it will help my case," Boutaib told BBC Sport.

"I didn't stand a chance in the past but my all-round game is pretty solid now, so you never give up hope.

"I've probably got a better chance of being noticed now I'm playing at the top level in France."

Boutaib says his confidence stems from the fact that several players born outside Morocco - notably Marouane Chamakh, Mbark Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi and Nordin Amrabat - all managed to represent the North Africans.

The Atlas Lions are flying in the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and have already secured a spot in the final stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

So Boutaib, who only made his professional debut in August 2012, admits he has his work cut out to earn a call-up or break into the star-studded Morocco squad.

"Of course it will be tough [to break in] when you look at what they have achieved lately," he said.

"Morocco has talented players playing all over the world but that will not stop me from believing I could do a job for my country.

"I was born in France but I am one hundred percent Moroccan, so it would be a great honour.

"At the moment I will continue to focus on my club career and if that's all going well then international football could come with it."