Hakim Ziyech’s name was nowhere to be found in the Morocco squad announcement for the current international break, which was certainly surprising given that he’s pretty much their best player and he had seemingly already fully recovered from the shoulder injury he picked a few weeks ago.
As we learned soon after, there had been some speculation that he had fallen out with the national team’s head coach. And as it turns out, that’s very much case, as confirmed by the coach himself, Vahid Halihodžić!
“His behaviour in the last two matches, especially the last one, was not that of a national team player who as a leader in the team has to be positive role model. He arrived late and after that he even refused to work. There was no point in discussing it afterwards, as a coach the answer is right there to see. For me, the national team is above everything, nobody can hold it hostage.”
Morocco played those two games not long after the Champions League final, and Ziyech had apparently arrived late, presumably related to that in some way. That was strike one for Halilhodžić, with strike two and three following soon after.
“For the first time in my coaching career, I have seen behaviour that disappoints me. A player who refuses to play a game, admittedly a friendly, on the pretext that he is injured. 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. You can’t cheat with the national team. You are 100% there or you are not.”
-Vahid Halihodžić; source: The New Arab
Ziyech on Instagram after not being selected for Morocco…. pic.twitter.com/iZpNlg89Ua— Ninety Morocco ♓ (@ninetymorocco) August 26, 2021
Bit of a strange claim from Halilhodžić that this is the first time he’s ever seen this, considering that a very similar situation played out for him at Nantes with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga, whom he also accused of faking an injury before falling out with him.
Two data points a pattern don’t make, obviously, but it does make the coach’s other claims less credible as well. Ziyech’s own reaction in his Instagram story wasn’t indicative of not wanting to play, and instead seemed to indicate that he was expecting to be called up.
UPDATE: Ziyech has called Halilhodžić out for not speaking the actual truth. Spicy!
Looks like Hakim Ziyech won't be going to the AFCON... pic.twitter.com/UsFwh3LjBz— DREAM Chelseafc (@dreamchelseacfc) September 2, 2021
As many reports point out, Ziyech did fall out with former Morocco head coach Hervé Renard once as well, back in 2017, though they eventually cleared the air, with Renard taking responsibility as well. (Communication is key in any relationship!) We’ll see if that happens with Halilhodžić, who certainly comes across as bit of an old-school hard-ass.