Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has admitted that he is excited to see Hakim Ziyech join the club in the summer, but stopped short of comparing the Moroccan to any other player in the league.
The Blues have agreed a deal with Ajax which will see the 26-year-old move to Stamford Bridge in the summer for an initial €40m, having failed with an approach to sign Ziyech during the January window.
They did not make a single senior addition last month, with just the arrival of 16-year-old Norwegian Bryan Fiabema to get excited about, but they are clearly getting a head start on their business for the summer.
Ziyech has been one of Europe’s standout players in recent years, shining in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-final last season, and Lampard, speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of Monday’s clash with Manchester United, admitted he thinks Ziyech could bring something new to his side.
“I think [fans will see] quality in what he’s got,” he said. “In terms of the ability to make assists and score goals. We have spoken a lot this season about games where we’re maybe having a lot of the ball but not the final bit.
“Hopefully next season he can be a player to help provide that with his quality, with his passing, final ball and shooting. He will have to fit into the way we work here, the way we work off the ball, the energy we want in our team, as everybody does. But the quality he has got will be there for fans to see.
“He ticks lots of boxes. I’m delighted to be in a position to say that he will be our player next season.”
Ziyech managed 21 goals and 24 assists for Erik ten Hag’s side last season, playing as an inverted right winger. He was given freedom to drift around and use his passing skills to tear teams apart.
It’s a style – and a system – which has rarely been seen in the Premier League, so Lampard was asked to compare Ziyech to a current player in the English top flight, However, he refused to do so.
“That’s dangerous ground,” he added. “I won’t say unique but he has an incredible left foot and an elegance about him. He can find a pass.
“I don’t want to start comparing him because that’s an easy headline to take the story that way but I see a player that can have a big imprint on the Premier League and our team. We’ve at times struggled to have the finishing touch and hopefully he can help that.”
Declining to compare Ziyech and put him on a pedestal is right. When labelling a player as ‘the next A’ or ‘another B’, it instantly adds pressure to succeed and conform to a certain play style – something which Lampard obviously does not want from Ziyech.
There is a clear reluctance to bill Ziyech as a saviour at Stamford Bridge. While he certainly does possess the skills which Chelsea have lacked, there is simply no need to give him all these expectations to meet so early.
Players can take years to adjust to the English top flight. Fortunately, Ziyech looks like he might not have many problems with that. He performed against Tottenham Hotspur last season and even impressed against Chelsea themselves this campaign, so his talent at the top level is clear.