After a sensational Champions League semi-final run with Ajax in 2019, there was no question that Hakim Ziyech had the world at his feet.
A summer move away from Amsterdam was expected but Ajax’s playmaker-in-chief remained, despite reported interest from Spain and France, until it became clear Stamford Bridge would be his new home.
Having put a recently imposed transfer embargo behind them, Chelsea agreed to sign Ziyech ahead the 2020/21 season, with the deal confirmed a few weeks after the closing of the January 2020 window. It would be Ziyech’s first adventure outside Dutch top division football, where he recorded no fewer than 87 assists across 216 appearances.
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The partnership, however, which has already spanned two managers, hasn’t been the most fruitful. Before the November international break, Ziyech had played 49 times across all competitions for Chelsea, scoring eight goals and recording five assists.
So it comes as no surprise that parting of the ways is apparently on the horizon. For all his brilliance, which has been few and far between in England, there’s no spot — or guaranteed starting berth — for Ziyech under Thomas Tuchel’s leadership.
Ziyech’s present deal expires in June 2025, so his signature will not be cheap and with clubs being reluctant to spend big in January, there’s always the possibility of an initial loan move away before it becomes permanent.
But, the question is, where could he go? Below are contenders to become his next destination; a dream option, realistic choice, and wildcard selection.
Dream: Pleased to assist Haaland and company
Prior to Erik ten Hag’s arrival in the Amsterdam, Ziyech was nominally a No.10 when representing Ajax, but that soon changed and he found a new lease on life playing from the right flank to devastating effect. Ten Hag’s system undoubtedly gave him the platform to shine as it allowed for multiple goal creations.
No longer considered to be solely a deep-lying forward, interested clubs will see the Moroccan international as a winger, and that’s where Borussia Dortmund come in. According to Bild, Die Schwarzgelben may be active in the winter transfer market as they seek a player who can play out wide.
Ziyech is a possible candidate to help bolster Dortmund’s Bundesliga title charge, with BVB four points behind league leaders Bayern Munich after 11 matches. Given form is temporary, we can envisage Erling Haaland on the receiving end of Ziyech’s passes/crosses. The loss of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United hasn’t always been felt but it’s fair to say no one in Marco Rose’s side can replicate the Englishman’s creative output. Ziyech has proven he can be as creative as anyone in European football when playing consistently in an attack-oriented system. There’s a reason why he earned the ‘assist king’ moniker.
Realistic: Following a well-trodden path
Don’t expect Dortmund to part with any cash if Ziyech ends up wearing their black-and-yellow uniform, though, and the German powerhouse won’t be the only interested club.
Before packing his bags for England, there were strong overtures for Ziyech’s signature coming from Serie A with Roma being the reported infatuated party. However, chances of him learning from José Mourinho seem remote, though you can never rule it out especially as former teammate Tammy Abraham is there now. But there’s another Italian club he can temporarily call home, who are no strangers to loaning from the reigning European champions.
Since the 2013/14 season no fewer than seven players — Michael Essien, Fernando Torres, Marco van Ginkel, Mario Pasalic, Tiemoué Bakayoko, Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud — have joined AC Milan on loan from Chelsea. In the cases of Torres and Tomori they initially signed on loan before penning a permanent contract. According to Gazzetta Dello Sport, AC Milan kept close tabs on Ziyech in the final days of the summer transfer window and although they have options on either wing and behind the striker (notably Alexis Saelemaekers, Samu Castillejo, Brahim Díaz and Rade Krunic), the Moroccan’s experience and class should immediately put him at the forefront of Stefano Pioli’s thinking.
Wildcard: Magpie revolution or return home
Newcastle United and their newfound riches will certainly be a factor in the upcoming winter transfer window, but would Ziyech leave a squad role at championship-chasing Chelsea for a relegation fight even if it allows him an opportunity to prove doubters wrong and that he can thrive in England’s top division?
Based on his quality, Ziyech would slot in comfortably with Eddie Howe at the helm, though a switch remains a gamble as the Magpies’ recruitment policy bogs down to what they could eventually become. Ziyech’s bank account will substantially grow but heading into his 30s a player of his calibre needs to be dining in the Champions League (though as things currently stand his options are limited).
Hakim Ziyech has scored his first goal for Chelsea since netting in the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal in August.
The goal-drought is finally over. 😅 pic.twitter.com/HsLEqYBJOi
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 2, 2021
Former club Ajax would certainly welcome him back with open arms, especially if they are not required to pay his full wages. This also falls in line with a renewed transfer policy by sporting director Marc Overmars which is signing former players/Eredivisie stars with Premier League experience. Saying that, he unfortunately plays in the one area where De Godenzonen are not exactly short on talent. However, room can always be made especially for a club great and someone who brings an x-factor. This will undoubtedly mean a re-jig of Ten Hag’s attacking quartet — currently Antony, Steven Berghuis/Davy Klaassen, Dusan Tadic and Sébastien Haller — which causes an unnecessary headache. That could leave room for other European Cup contenders if Ziyech does push through and exits Stamford Bridge.