You remember Hakim Ziyech, don’t you?
Not that he’s slipped too far from the footballing consciousness, of course. The forward recently scored twice against Manchester United in the Champions League, albeit aided by the pasta-limbed Andre Onana, and shone during Morocco’s historic run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2022.
But Chelsea fans, and casual Premier League watchers, will remember a different Ziyech. An ineffectual, infuriating player capable of jaw-dropping moments of skill but only two or three times in a season.
For much of his spell at Stamford Bridge, the 30-year-old looked like somebody in need of an arm around the shoulder and some winter sun. Bought by Thomas Tuchel following his stellar performances at Ajax, Ziyech quickly became submerged in Chelsea’s clusterf*ck approach to squad building.
Tuchel was sacked in September 2022, Graham Potter didn’t fancy him despite his World Cup heroics and Frank Lampard treated Ziyech as if he possessed a contagious disease. A move was necessary for both parties.
Happily, Galatasaray stepped in and added Ziyech to their ever-increasing collection of Premier League figurines. Istanbul, a beguiling city with inhabitants that treat footballers like Ottoman warriors, felt like the perfect setting to kick-start his club career.
If his monster effort against Pendikspor is any indication, Ziyech already resembles a seemingly ailing house plant that’s revived through a simple course of TLC.
With Galatasaray already leading 1-0, a combination of enterprising passing and clever movement saw the Turkish giants work the ball to an unworked Ziyech somewhere near the Greek border.
After clocking the ocean of space afforded to him by the opposition defence, the former Chelsea man shifted the ball onto his left foot and unleashed a dipping howitzer that would’ve left Issac Newton confounded.
The Pendikspor goalkeeper made a token dive to keep out the 30-yard effort, but would’ve felt more useful sitting in a deck chair beside the goal with a piece of baklava and marvelling at Ziyech’s sheer chutzpah instead.
İNANILMAZ BİR GOL!
GOL | Pendikspor 0-2 Galatasaray
⚽ 82' Hakim Ziyech pic.twitter.com/nzC1hpPDvb
— Anlık Goller (@anlikgollerr_3) December 2, 2023
Ziyech, whose move to Turkey from Stamford Bridge is a season-long loan with an obligation to make the move permanent, feels the Blues squad was too large and was ‘asking for problems’.
“We had three teams there with top players,” the Morocco international told Voetbal International. “At a certain point, we run out of patience. A selection with 40 players for one team is simply far too much and is asking for problems.”
Ziyech admits that he was left ‘nagging with club management’ and was hurt over a failed move to PSG in January 2023.
“Pff, Chelsea, we can talk about that for a long time,” Ziyech added. “But the conclusion is that things did not turn out as we had hoped.
“It was a period full of coaching changes, nagging with the club management, a departure to Paris Saint-Germain that did not happen at the last minute and it was disappointing in terms of football.”
Ziyech won’t be the first player to express his frustration with modern-day Chelsea and won’t be the last.
But, having escaped the Stamford Bridge yolk, he’s found the perfect environment for his talents in Turkey and is back producing Puskas Award-worthy bangers simply because he can.
By Michael Lee