Hakim Ziyech, or “the wizard” as the Ajax fans dubbed him back when he was scoring goals in Netherlands’ Eredivisie, is on the verge of bidding farewell to English Premier League side Chelsea.
Among the European soccer clubs that are courting the Moroccan winger are the Serie A reigning champions AC Milan, who are looking to strengthen their roster in the January transfer window.
Ziyech, a left-footed player gifted with incredible technique, hasn’t been able to express all his potential at Chelsea, where he racked up 14 goals in 92 appearances over the last three seasons.
In the 2022/23 campaign, Ziyech has only stepped on the field five times in the English Premier League due to strong competition within the Blues’ squad, as he currently ranks behind Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Conor Gallagher in manager Graham Potter’s hierarchy.
Sitting on the bench is certainly not ideal for a player that just three years ago was widely regarded as one of Europe’s biggest stars: In 2019, UEFA listed Ziyech in the 20-man UEFA Champions League squad of the season, while The Guardian ranked him as the world’s 29th best footballer.
At AC Milan, Ziyech would play as either a trequartista or right winger in Stefano Pioli’s trademarked 4-2-3-1 formation.
The attacking midfielder position would highlight his outstanding passing abilities, while featuring on the right flank would especially bring out his lethal one-versus-one dribbling skills.
In either case, Ziyech would have to fight for a starting spot at AC Milan, a side that displays a very distinctive, dynamic and possession-based brand of soccer.
The attacking midfielder position is currently occupied by 21-year-old Belgium international Charles De Ketelaere, whom AC Milan holds in high esteem considering his enormous growth potential, or Brahim Diaz, who has risen to become a fan favorite thanks to his late displays, such as his unforgettable solo effort in the home game against rival Juventus.
On the right, the Rossoneri usually feature one between Junior Messias, a very technical left-footed Brazilian winger, and Alexis Saelemaekers, a versatile midfielder with enviable work ethic.
Standing at 5-foot-11 tall and weighing about 150 pounds, Ziyech relies on his agility, explosiveness and cultured left foot, a weapon that makes him a set-piece specialist.
Ziyech is also known for pulling off brilliant, instinctive plays such as his recent goal from behind the midfield line, showcasing instances of magic that earned him the “wizard” nickname during his 2016-2020 spell at Dutch side Ajax.
At 29 years old, Ziyech has entered the peak of a footballer’s career, which is probably why he is looking to find consistent playing time and finally establish himself as a protagonist in a major European soccer club.
AC Milan could not afford signing him on a permanent transfer, or at least not immediately. As Gazzetta dello Sport reports, the Rossoneri are evaluating the proposal of a loan with an option to buy in case specific performance-based benchmarks are met, and they are planning to disburse around $15 million.
Ziyech’s $6.2 million annual salary at Chelsea is higher than any wage on the AC Milan roster, which is why he would probably have to adjust his paycheck standards for a Serie A move.
In recent years, AC Milan have closed in on two other Chelsea players, English center-back Fikayo Tomori and French forward Olivier Giroud, both of whom have enjoyed remarkable success since landing in Milan.
Serie A’s January transfer window will open on January 2 and last until January 31, 2023.