“He’s a phenomenal player – oh my word.”
James Richardson isn’t alone in his assessment of Hakim Ziyech – Chelsea for one are very keen, given that they announced on Thursday that they’ve agreed to sign the Moroccan winger from Ajax in the summer.
The question that occurs is: why hadn’t someone already signed Ziyech from Ajax? As their squad was being picked apart last summer, following their brilliant run to the semi-finals of the Champions League, their team was being picked apart: Frankie de Jong went to Barcelona, Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, Lasse Schone left for Genoa and Kasper Dolberg went to Nice.
But Ziyech remained.
“Of all the players that were in that Ajax team, Ziyech was the most enjoyable to watch,” said Nick Miller on this week’s edition of the Totally Football Show. “He had an element of chaos to him that’s incredibly entertaining.
“And then of course there’s that cross field pass that’s been replayed on Twitter about a billion times, but I enjoy watching it every time.
The camera angle of this Hakim Ziyech pass will never get old. 😍
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 13, 2020
“Maybe Ajax had just got to the point where they’d sold enough players they didn’t have to let him go. Perhaps there was another reason other teams wouldn’t have gone for him, but he would’ve been the first one I’d have bid for.”
The simple answer seems to be that Ziyech could quite easily have gone, but he chose to stay. Last year there was talk of interest from Tottenham and Arsenal, Bayern Munich were mentioned a lot, and there were concrete approaches from Everton and Sevilla, at the very least.
But Ziyech chose to stay. In August, he told Dutch website AD: ”I really enjoy playing for Ajax…I am sure Sevilla are a nice club, but I have always said that everything needed to be just right if I were to make a move.
“Sevilla didn’t give me that feeling, so I would rather stay at Ajax. I could have waited for Bayern Munich, yeah. But it felt like the right moment to clarify my situation, both for Ajax and myself. If a club wanted me, they could have made their move.
“A transfer was never the holy grail for me. If the right club doesn’t come along, so be it. I signed a new deal and will definitely remain at Ajax this season.”
Football is a rapaciously ambitious business: players are treated with a sort of loose curiosity if they aren’t intensely focused on “progression”, which usually means an eye on a bigger or richer club. It’s taken as a given that they all want to move up, up, up, and the cutting barb that a player “lacks ambition” is as harsh as they come.
So it’s pretty nice to hear someone like Ziyech not make a move for the sake of it, to strike while the iron was hot and move when his stock was highest. to wait until he was satisfied the move was right.
Plenty of Eredivisie fans have commented on what a pleasure it’s been to see Ziyech play there over the last few years. The Premier League is about to experience that too.
You can listen to the latest edition of the Totally Football Show here, and even better you can subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.