Sunday May 10, 2020. 16:00
Former Heerenveen youth coach Jan de Jonge has revealed that Moroccan star Hakim Ziyech was the best number 10 he worked with in his career.
Ziyech, 27, was on the books of Heerenveen from 2007 to 2014. He has established himself as a household name at Dutch giants Ajax and will soon complete a big-money transfer to Premier League heavyweights Chelsea.
De Jonge explained that Ziyech had a slight naughty streak as a youngster but showed immense potential despite having a slender frame.
“When I first saw him, he must have been about fourteen. He had just entered the youth academy and he looked very fragile,” the coach told France Football, as quoted by Tribal Football.
“But he already had his creativity back then, so you knew he had a lot of potential. The fact that he is small and fragile could have become a problem, but he was fortunate that not so much value was attached to it in our training.
“The were some behavioural problems. But otherwise he had everything. In the end, it is often those boys, who may be more difficult to control, who have something extra as a footballer.
“I don’t know how I can explain that, but often it is so. Moreover, we had not the ability to push talents into the background and replace them with new players.
“But let’s be clear: he was by no means unmanageable. He was a prankster. We once played near a farm, and Hakim thought it would be a good idea to steal a chicken there and let it go in the dressing room. When I realised what was going on, I had to make clear to him that it might not be the best idea.”
He continued: “I don’t want to compare him to Johan Cruyff, far from it. But if you look at photos of those two when they were young, you see similarities in their physiques. Despite his physical shortcomings, Hakim was very dynamic and aggressive. If you add his exceptional left foot to that, you have a top player.
“This boy put the ball with his left leg where he wanted, when he wanted. He is the very best number 10 I have ever worked with. But I’d be lying if I said I thought he’d kick it that far. He has taken incredibly big steps in recent years.”