‘I didn’t want to rush’ – Ziyech on why he waited to leave Ajax and why Chelsea move came at the right time
The Blues creator spoke about his journey to Stamford Bridge and how he waited for a big opportunity like Frank Lampard’s side to come along
Hakim Ziyech says he took his time to find the right move away from Ajax after he has to wait until he turns 27 to play in a top league with Chelsea.
Indeed, the Morocco international earned global acclaim in one of Ajax’s great teams, which reached the Europa League final and Champions League semi-final.
As the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt got moves to Barcelona and Juventus, respectively, Ziyech rejected concrete proposals from the likes of Roma and Sevilla.
The playmaker was waiting for his shot at one of the world’s super clubs and he was rewarded when Chelsea activated his £37 million ($48m) release clause on Frank Lampard’s instructions.
And the midfielder thinks that he was being careful in waiting for his chance, even if it went a bit against his outspoken nature.
“I am not afraid to have my opinion and I always speak from my heart and what I am feeling, I am just saying. I don’t really care what people think about,” Ziyech told reporters ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester United on Saturday.
“They can take it how they want to take it. In the end, I always believe in myself and trust in myself and always believed in my own strengths so it didn’t really bother me what other clubs and people think.
“At the end of the day, if you perform on the pitch, that’s why most of the clubs are buying you or not. I also took my time. I didn’t want to rush myself to go to another club early at the youngest age. I took my time to improve and learn and grow as a person and now I am 27 and now is the time to move on.”
The deal was agreed in February with Ziyech joining in July, but he wasn’t able to play for Chelsea with the season being delayed due to coronavirus.
After returning from a knee injury in Chelsea’s only preseason game, Ziyech finally played his first minutes for his new club in substitute appearances against Southampton and Sevilla.
With question marks still on his abilities to adapt to a physical league like the Premier League, Ziyech insists that he is tough enough to handle what will be coming his way.
“Yeah, things that happened in the past when I was younger, all this stuff when you’re playing on the streets, it makes you hard as a person,” he added.
“Especially when you get older you can play that hard as well, because when I was young and playing on the streets I always played against older guys and they didn’t back down, even when you were too good for them they were just kicking and those types of thing make you hard as a person.
“It helps you to grow, even on the pitch, and from that mentality, it only helps you. I think I learned a lot from my past; it’s made me become what I am now at this moment.”
Part of Lampard’s big sell to Ziyech was that Chelsea were indeed going places and going to spend big this summer as he became the first signing. Then followed Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy for a combined total of around £220 million ($275m).
With plenty of depth in the attack, Ziyech knows he is in for a fight for places at Stamford Bridge.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me, they told me already that I will not be the only one, because they had a ban for two windows,” he concluded. “So I knew for myself already that I will not be the only one. I think it is only good to have more new players, more different styles.
“I mean like it’s for every player, it makes them better to have a competition. And I think it’s only good for yourself and, yeah, the only thing which you have to do is to keep pushing it to be the best of yourself and everything. Everything will be fine but you know you have a lot of competition so you have to work hard and keep pushing.”