Hakim Ziyech is an absolute credit to the Eredivisie. Currently, at the age of 26, Ziyech is in the prime of his career and has spent every season of his senior career so far in the Netherlands’ top division. He made his senior debut for Heerenveen in August 2012 after joining their youth academy in 2007 and has never looked back.

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Ziyech made a name for himself out of copious amounts of goals and assists at every club he has graced with his presence. On four separate occasions he has topped the assist charts in the Eredivisie and his 74 goals in 197 league games is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Ziyech’s artistry has been colouring the division from the day he set foot on the Heerenveen turf. He has a beautifully smooth, paintbrush-like left foot with which he strokes the ball around the pitch in an effortless manner – one which would make even van Gogh a little envious.

In addition to his undisputed style he also has an abundance of substance. He strikes the ball with more venom than a Puff Adder and has more than enough bite to his game also. Whilst not the best tackler the game has ever seen his aggression and fire make him an excellent presser of the ball and a valid defensive contributor. He is far from your stereotypical, luxurious number 10.

Playing as a number 10, wide right and central midfielder throughout his career Ziyech has proven his versatility. Regardless of position however, his set piece abilities are always a massive threat, and something of a forte for the Moroccan, as proven in Ajax’s recent Champions League qualification over APOEL. Just before half-time Ziyech swung in an aesthetically gorgeous ball from just inside the half-way line landing right on the edge of the six-yard box, the ball was met by the head of an unmarked Edson Álvarez, netting his first goal on his full debut, and set Ajax well on their way to Champions League qualification.

After his first full playing season with Heerenveen, grabbing 11 goals in all competitions, Ziyech was swept up by FC Twente where he really started to make a name for himself. Racking up 11 league goals and 16 assists in his first season at the club and 17 goals and 10 assists the season after, Ziyech’s reputation was on the rise and his numbers were impossible to argue with.

His performances in his first season at Twente earned him the captain’s armband for the following season. Unfortunately, in January of that season, Ziyech had his armband stripped after he made disrespectful comments towards the club and demanded a transfer away. Despite this rare display of disloyalty, Ziyech remained a Twente player and saw out the rest of the season before Ajax came calling.

After a hugely prolific season a number of foreign clubs, understandably, were extremely interested. However, Ziyech opted for the red and white of Ajax as he stated a desire to remain in the Netherlands to win the Eredivisie title. He put pen to paper on a five year contract emphasizing his commitment to the club and to the league.

Unfortunately, Ziyech had to wait before his dream of winning the league title was to become a reality. During his first season at the club Ziyech’s stock only continued to grow, the Amsterdam club put on string of magnificent performances in Europe culminating in a heart-breaking Europa League final loss to Manchester United. Meanwhile, in the league, arch rivals Feyenoord compounded the Amsterdammers’ misery by winning their first league title in 18 years.

Despite interest in Ziyech continually growing after multiple magical performances in Europe he decided to remain in Amsterdam for yet another disappointing season. Finishing runners up to PSV this time and failing to qualify for either Champions League or Europa League it would have been easy for the Moroccan magician to have jumped ship yet again, especially after winning both the Ajax player of the year and Dutch footballer of the year awards. Nevertheless, he decided to stick around again, this time, however, things were different.

With the sensational growth of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt accompanied by an unbreakable team spirt, the signings of Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic and, of course, Ziyech pulling the strings, Ajax had an unforgettable season. Not only did Ajax do the league and cup double that season, they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Champions League, defeating Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus along the way.

This season marked the birth of Ziyech, the undisputed superstar. Throughout the entire campaign he was sublime, both class and technique personified. He recorded 19 goals and 17 assists, including a goal in the Champions League playoff round, his first official Champions League goal, against Real Madrid of all opponents, and a wonderful goal in the painful semi-final defeat to Tottenham. On top of this he was named Ajax’s player of the season for the second year running.

After finally getting his hands on that Eredivisie title he so desired and given the soaring exposure Ajax’s breath-taking Champions League run earned him – and so many of his colleagues – you wouldn’t begrudge him deciding it was time to fly the nest. But no. Ziyech instead decided to remain in Amsterdam and signed a new three year contract running until 2022. This was despite being told he was welcome to leave the following summer at the beginning of their marvellous campaign.

Having now secured another season in the coveted Champions League, Ziyech has shown that the Eredivisie is no longer simply a development league. His dazzling flair and genius abilities would once have been deemed too good for the division and a move abroad the only sensible career decision, but now he has set a new bar for Netherlands clubs. His talents might have outgrown the division but, unlike most, Ziyech has decided to take the division with him rather than leave it behind.

His incredible man of the match performance against APOEL proved that he, and Ajax, are now undoubtedly Champions League quality. Even after key departures in de Ligt and de Jong, Ziyech has shown that you can achieve everything you want in the Eredivisie – if you really want it. With numerous opportunities to jump ship he has stayed loyal and the results are clear to see with another year of scintillating Champions League action on the cards.

With three more years on his contract, Ziyech looks set to prove the Eredivisie is more than a stepping stone, it is home to one of Europe’s most exciting and talented clubs (players such as Steven Bergwijn and Donyell Malen – take note). Not only that, his saucy Moroccan finesse and unparalleled productivity will prove to team mates, and potential transfer targets, that Ajax are currently one of the world’s leading clubs and that they can achieve all their wildest dreams in the Netherlands – with a little bit of Ziyech-eque persistence and loyalty.

Ellis Douglas (2 Posts)