Scout Report: Hakim Ziyech, the attacker touted to replace Philippe Coutinho
The news of Neymar’s departure from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain has brought about a renewed sense of dread amongst the Liverpool faithful. The attention has now turned on to the Catalan giants who have a truckload of cash to expend upon and if reports from Spain are to be believed, they have identified Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho to fill the void created by the departure of Neymar.
While Liverpool look keen to hold on to their prised asset, especially with Jurgen Klopp saying that Barcelona can save their energy when it comes to pursuing Coutinho, it would be intelligent of the club to ensure that they have a suitable replacement in their sight if the deal for Coutinho does go through.
Recent reports suggest that Klopp and co. have identified Ajax attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech as a player they would like to pursue and in this segment, we take a look at the Moroccan's style of play, strengths, and weaknesses.
Born on 19th March 1993, Ziyech began his footballing journey at the Heerenveen Academy as he spent 10 years between 2004 and 2014 learning the tricks of the trade. It was at Heerenveen where he came to the limelight as he was handed his debut at a tender age of 19 in an UEFA Europa League third round qualification game against FC Rapid Bucuresti.
His performances, whenever afforded an opportunity, ensured that he found regular game time and his efforts were rewarded with a move to Twente FC, where he truly rose to the occasion as a playmaker. He featured regularly for Twente, scoring 34 goals and assisting several others in the 74 games he played before the Dutch heavyweights Ajax came calling for the services of one of the brightest talents in the country.
Style of play and strengths
Trained and deployed as an attacking central midfielder, Ziyech has been very effectively aiding the attacks that he has featured in and his statistics lend further credentials to his abilities. In the previous season with Ajax, which happened to be his first, Ziyech was by far the most creative of the Dutch players in the Eredivisie and also played a crucial role in his side reaching the UEFA Europa League finals.
He created a goal-scoring opportunity every 24 minutes in the aforementioned tournaments and while that in itself makes for a very pleasant reading, the manner in which he did so must also be noticed as he used his vision, movement on and off the ball as well as his abilities on the dead ball to make the young Ajax unit a force to be reckoned with.
He moves fluidly with the ball at his feet, can beat his man with a combination of pace, skill on the ball as well as an intricate first touch. Add to that his ability to score crucial goals at a regular frequency -- he scored 10 goals in 42 appearances -- and it comes as no surprise that his consistent performances in Netherlands have made him a subject of transfer rumour despite spending only 12 months at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Perhaps, his greatest ability can also be counted as one of his greatest weakness. The youngster can often be seen trying to complicate matters rather than keeping it simple and has a tendency of being wayward with his passing.
Another aspect of his game which he will need to improve considerably should he move to a physically tougher league such as the Premier League would be his ability to keep possession of the ball. He is not the strongest of players and has proven to be an easy player to dislodge off the ball by defenders who take the physical approach. While his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses, these are aspects that he will need to improve upon to be counted amongst the elite players in the world.
A move to the Premier League would also require a more all-round contribution from the player. He didn't really take on his defensive duties during his time in the Eredivisie.
What comes next?
Ziyech was already a player in high demand when he made the move to Ajax. However, his decision to do so was inspired by the player’s requirement of finding regular playing time. While he is being touted to be an ideal replacement for Coutinho, there are quite a few players within the Liverpool ranks who will be keen to prove their worth to their manager and that could hamper his development.
On the other hand, now would be the perfect time for the player to move to a tougher league having already established himself as one of the best, if not the best player in the Eredivisie. However, it remains to be seen if Ajax would be willing to sell their most prised asset, whose current contract runs until the end of the 2020-21 season.
It would require Liverpool to make a serious offer to make heads turn at the Amsterdam ArenA. However, given the way in which the current transfer window has gone, we would not be surprised if the Reds lure the Moroccan away with a multi-million-pound deal.
Ziyech’s move to Liverpool would largely depend on the possible transfer of Coutinho to Barcelona and the Dutch League fans believe that the Moroccan has the potential to fill in the big boots of the Brazilian. Ziyech has become a house hold name in The Netherlands courtesy of his consistent performances and now is perhaps the right time for the player to make a name for himself in one of the biggest footballing leagues in the world.