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Under our Talent Radar banner, we have constantly strived to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names. Our latest initiative within the burgeoning Talent Radar section is the introduction of #The10 feature.
This annual feature champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward 10 of the best young individuals across 10 primary categories. This first piece looks at the stand-out young star from the vast African continent.
For all queries regarding this feature, eligibility and selection process, read this piece.
Hakim Ziyech is a 22 year old Moroccan midfielder, currently plying his trade in the Eredivisie for FC Twente. The talented player was born in The Netherlands, but chose to play for Morocco internationally. Initially, he started off at Heerenveen, and spent two seasons at that club. He was quite a success there, with 22 goals and 21 assists in his two full seasons for the club. At the start of the 2014-15 season though, he was snapped up by Twente, and after a slow start at that club, he’s evolved and adapted to become one of their most important players.
Ziyech is primarily an attacking midfielder/ second striker/ number 10 type of player, but like most who fit that description, he possesses the ability to play across the front 3. The impact he’s made hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Danny Blind openly fighting for the right to play him for The Netherlands before the player eventually chose to play for Morocco.
Even since making his debut in 2012, Ziyech has been an impactful player, making the difference for whichever team he’s played for. He made the move to Twente at the start of last season, and initially struggled to make an impact on his team’s fortunes. 2015 also started off slowly for the man, with nothing of note before February, when he finally scored against Ajax. Since then however, it’s been a bed of roses for the man. The second last match of last season saw him record a rare hat-trick of assists against Dordrecht. This season as well, he’s started off strongly despite the tough results his team has had to face. He’s been a constant threat to the opposition. He’s already notched up 7 goals and 4 assists for his team, with more than half the season still to go.
Internationally too, it’s been a good year for the man. Both The Netherlands and Morocco were fighting over him , and he just about missed out on his Oranje debut because of an injury. This allowed Morocco to seal his talents, and the youngster turned out for them.
Ziyech is an attacking midfielder, and an impactful one at that. Over the course of his career, he’s been a very creative and effective individual. With almost 100 career appearances and over 30 goals and assists already, Ziyech has shrugged off the ‘inexperience’ tag. That’s down to the fact that he’s always attempting the cutting edge pass, and trying to open up the opposition. His pass completion rate lies at 73%, which isn’t very impressive. But the reason for this is evident when you study his passing pattern. 2 out of every 3 passes that he attempts are forward passes, and about 11% of these through balls end up as assists.
He’s the most creative player in the division, ahead of some highly rated talents from teams like Ajax and PSV, with the most key passes in the Eredivisie at the time of writing. He’s also got a mean shot to boot, with a number of long range shots flying into the net as well. Moreover, he’s great with direct free kicks as well, adding another dimension to his attacking threat. Often, this can also translate into a wicked delivery for his teammates to latch onto and attack.
Ziyech is a player who is well respected and thought of in The Netherlands. His team is in a tough spot right now, but that isn’t down to a lack of effort from him. His performances this season, and the last, are more than just satisfactory. His appearance for Morocco was met with derision among the Dutch press, with Danny Blind working long and hard to try and dissuade him. His shooting and passing ability are indicative of a strong technique, and that’s something that will always hold him in good stead. If he can maintain his current strike rate and form, surely a move to another club beckons. The current glut of attacking midfielders in the game may mean that he’ll have trouble finding a place, but consistent performances and efforts to improve from him will bring good results.
The decision to narrow down to Ziyech wasn’t an easy one, as the Outside of the Boot team went through a vast array of individuals. The African category proved to be the hardest with a number of young stars impressing.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Nabil Bentaleb was the biggest threat to Ziyech’s post in this feature, after a particularly impressive season in the Premier League. His team-mate, banking on his Ligue 1 success, was also considered but missed the cut as Clinton N’Jie still continues to struggle in the second half of 2015. Defenders Eric Baily and Abdul Rahman Baba turned a few heads as well (some even turned Jose Mourinho’s!), but ultimately lost out in our initial filtering. Fiorentina’s Khouma Babacar is arguably one of the most talented individuals from our African shortlist, but on performances alone the Senegalese striker was shy of representing the continent.
Hakim Ziyech was a constant feature in our Talent Radar Team of the Week last season, but was three months too old from featuring in this season’s version of the weekly recognition article. His biggest Talent Radar success though was in our Midfielder Rankings, as the Moroccan dominated the feature from it’s debut early last season, owing to his successful start to the 2014-15 Eredivisie season. He ended up finishing in 8th place in the midfielder rankings, with Davy Klaassen the only higher placed Eredivisie representative. You can see all major Talent Radar awards and it’s winners here.
This is how The 10 Young Stars of 2015 feature currently looks, as we reveal each individual, piece by piece. Next up is the Asian representative, right this way.
Read about all the players feature in #The10, right here.