Chelsea playmaker Hakim Ziyech missed the Africa Cup of Nations after falling out with Morocco manager Vahid Halihodzic, and the former PSG boss has hit out at him
Hakim Ziyech has begun to hit his stride for Chelsea after a stop-start career in west London, but the opposite is true of the former Ajax man’s international career.
The 28-year-old scored in back-to-back games before the international break as he begins to show the quality which prompted the Blues to bring him in after they lost Real Madrid flop Eden Hazard, netting against Brighton before opening the scoring in a victory over Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a quiet international break for the Moroccan, though, with Atlas Lions manager Vahid Halihodzic reiterating his stance on a player who he omitted from his Africa Cup of Nations squad.
Ziyech sat out the tournament as Morocco reached the quarter-finals, and Halihodzic’s comments suggest there’s no hope of a return.
Did Ziyech’s absence cost Morocco a chance at AFCON glory? Have your say in the comments section
Halihodzic accused Ziyech of “unacceptable behaviour” back in September, accusing the Chelsea man of refusing to play in a Morocco friendly.
“For me, the national team is above everything, nobody can hold it hostage,” the 69-year-old said.
“The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play. He then refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute. For me, that type of behaviour is unacceptable.”
Ziyech hit back strongly at the Bosnian coach, who managed the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Nantes during a long managerial career, and Halihodzic confirmed the player’s omission from his AFCON squad in December.
The manager was quizzed about Ziyech’s future in the tournament after the quarter-final exit, and doubled down on his stance.
“The players I have selected are the best in the country,” Halilhodzic said, as reported by Goal.
“I don’t select a player who can unbalance the group. Not even if his name is Lionel Messi.
“Ziyech’s behaviour does not fit the selection. He doesn’t want to train, doesn’t want to play. He doesn’t take it seriously. I’m not going to beg him to come back.
“After the [AFCON] tournament three years ago, he was the most criticised. He was booed. You mustn’t forget that.”
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Ziyech was part of Morocco’s squad at the 2018 World Cup, starting all three group games as they were eliminated at the first hurdle after failing to get out of a group including Spain, Portugal and Iran.
He also started all four of his country’s games at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations as they won their group without conceding a goal but fell to Benin at the last-16 stage.
Halihodzic’s squad finished top of their group in this year’s tournament and beat Malawi in the last 16, but Egypt eliminated them after extra-time in the following round.