It was not that long ago when Hakim Ziyech was the player many supporters were roundly excited to see take his first steps as a Chelsea player. Secured in February 2020 from Ajax, the Moroccan heralded a bold summer of recruitment.
Ziyech had dazzled the Stamford Bridge crowd for Ajax, turning around and shrugging at the Matthew Harding Lower in a manic 4-4 draw with the Blues in the Champions League. In the over two years since, the Harding Stand might be shrugging back at Ziyech for a different reason.
The very real pursuit for Raheem Sterling of Manchester City is yet another star being chased in hopes of resolving the attacking underperformance that Ziyech is a part of. Sterling’s profile demands a first-team place which will limit chances for others.
READ MORE:Michael Edwards has already proven his worth to Chelsea with £ 219.8m Liverpool transfer splurge
Some reports have emerged out of Italy that AC Milan are close to signing the Moroccan, and although little in the UK suggests a deal is that far down the line, Ziyech’s future is certainly in question this summer.
The winger has been dropped into a trio of names within the current squad who could be sold this summer. Paired alongside attacking peers Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner, all three fall into a category of talent that has struggled to establish themselves consistently, showing brief signs of form before dropping out of the picture.
Either suffering injury setbacks like Ziyech and Pulisic, or more technical questions over Werner in the Premier League. The jury is still out over all three’s suitability to Thomas Tuchel and whether their current positions at Chelsea will radically change.
Ziyech’s problem is arguably more pressing given his age, at 29 and in the prime of his career, spending another season flirting with regular starts before spending weeks out of it might not be that alluring, even with the five-sub rule and the likelihood he misses out on the World Cup after a public falling out with coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
If you add Sterling into that mix, along with long-standing interest in Ousmane Dembele and shouts for talent like Raphinha, it is fair to assume the writing is on the way.
What Ziyech has over Pulisic and Werner too in the likelihood of a sale is a lower fee, £ 33m from the Eredivisie stands out in Chelsea’s recent business as modest compared to the near £ 50m for Werner from Leipzig and £ 58m for Pulisic from Dortmund.
On a base level, Ziyech’s numbers from his two seasons are not radically different. Gaining five more appearances (44) in 2021/22 to his first (39). Bettering his goals and assists by two last term to his first, with eight and six.
Ziyech certainly benefitted during January and February when Tuchel slightly altered his formation back to a shape he played with Ajax and for Frank Lampard in the early months of 2020/21. It was in that period when the forward scored in three consecutive league games, the pick of the bunch coming against Spurs, curling a superb left-footed effort into the top corner perplexing a stranded Hugo Lloris.
That glimpse of artistry was what Chelsea fans were hoping to see on a consistent basis from Ziyech, but for a variety of factors, those shining moments have not led to a greater transformation.
Ziyech, like others, must be pondering what the next few months hold for them and whether the addition of Sterling cements their place as merely rotational options for Tuchel, rather than the key pillars of a new attacking era they were presented as in 2020.