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World Cup One To Watch: Morocco’s 25-year-old playmaker Hakim Ziyech

Hakim Ziyech
Photo: Getty Images

Morocco

World Cup One To Watch: Morocco’s 25-year-old playmaker Hakim Ziyech

The Morocco international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech, Dutch Footballer of the Year, arrives at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on the back of a stellar year the Eredivisie, key to Morocco’s hopes of progressing from a Group B full of hurdles.

The 25-year-old attacking midfielder has enjoyed two fine seasons with Ajax and has been earning plaudits across the Netherlands for his ability to craft a goal, be it for himself or one of his teammates.

With a big European move on the horizon, this summer’s tournament in Russia provides the perfect opportunity for the Morocco star to showcase his creative talents.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

A €11 million (£10 million) signing from Twente in 2016, Ziyech helped Ajax finish as runners-up in the Eredivisie and Europa League in 2017.

The 25-year-old scored 30 league goals in two years at Twente and recorded 27 assists throughout that period. He then went on to lead the assists chart in his first year at Ajax last season, creating more chances per game than any other player in the Eredivisie striking 11 times.

Ziyech is one of the most productive attacking midfielders in the Dutch top flight and this term he added to his impressive career tally with nine goals and 15 assists in 34 appearances.

Central to Ajax’s second-place finish in the Eredivisie this term, Ziyech is an exceptional dribbler, passer and set-piece taker, which makes him a tremendous threat from anywhere inside the final third.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

What is his international experience/record?

Born in Dronten, Ziyech was eligible to represent the Netherlands but declared for Morocco back in 2015. Just a year later, the talented playmaker was named the winner of the Mars d’Or trophy, awarded to the Moroccan player of the year.

Despite a bright start, having been left out of Herve Renard’s squad for last year’s African Nations Cup finals, Ziyech vowed he would never play international football again.

Nonetheless, some six months later he was netting key goals for the north Africans as they surged past the more fancied Ivory Coast in their qualifying group to book a place at their first finals in 20 years.

 

Like for his club, Ziyech’s record for Morocco is impressive, having scored nine times in 18 caps.

Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

Coming off the back of another superb season at Ajax, Ziyech is widely expected to be the star of Morocco’s World Cup campaign.

The 25-year-old is undoubtedly the most talented player in Hervé Renard’s squad for the upcoming tournament and he will provide the key to unlocking a tough Group B draw, consisting of Portugal, Spain and Iran.

Ziyech intends to move on from Ajax after the World Cup and the finals present him with a stage to attract top-quality suitors.

(Photo by Jarek Joepera/Getty Images)

What is his future after the World Cup?

The Moroccan’s value is predicted to rise in a notable way after the World Cup, especially considering the fact that he recently received Ajax’s Player of the Year award for his impressive performances this season.

According to ESPN, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham were all linked with Ziyech in 2016 before he chose Ajax as the next step in his career.

Having maintained his impressive form at the Netherlands’ most successful club, Liverpool were then considering the 24-year-old as a potential replacement for Philippe Coutinho.

Six months after the Brazilian’s departure and Jurgen Klopp’s side are again being linked with the Moroccan – who is expected to leave for a fee worth three times the £10 million for which he joined Ajax.

Last month the midfielder stated earlier that he wants a new challenge and, therefore, is widely expected to be departing the Johan Cruijff Stadion this summer, but a move is only likely to materialise after the tournament in Russia.

More recent reports from Dutch outlet De Telegraaf suggest the 25-year-old’s future lies with Roma, which could see a two-way battle between the Serie A side and Klopp’s Champions League finalists.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

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