Thomas Tuchel has Chelsea’s next Eden Hazard – if he can unlock his full potential

Stamford Bridge star’s Champions League performance against Juventus showed why Barcelona boss Xavi is keen and ought now be the platform on which he builds

Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay nowChelsea v Juventus – Match in PicturesopinionByTom Hopkinson

  • 13:55, 24 Nov 2021
  • Updated14:04, 24 Nov 2021
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Hakim Ziyech has a decision to make at Chelsea.

He can continue to drift in and out, offering glimpses of the quality he possesses one minute then becoming anonymous the next, and leave the club unheralded sometime in the next 18 months.

Or he can use the performance he produced in the 4-0 mauling of Juventus as a platform to knuckle down and go on to become the heir to the Great Entertainer throne that has sat vacant at Stamford Bridge since Eden Hazard departed for Real Madrid in 2019.

No other Blues star is as naturally blessed with the all-round package the Moroccan possesses.

Ziyech has scored twice for Chelsea this season, in the Super Cup victory and against Malmo in the Champions League
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Image:
Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine)

He’s built like a racehorse and as quick as one, with vision, technical ability and flair added to the mix for good measure.

The trouble is, just like Hazard, Ziyech has it in the locker to be frustrating, too, and those who watch him regularly in south-west London will feel that, should he depart for Barcelona in January, as some reports suggest he might, then he will leave Chelsea fans with a general sense of wondering what might have been had the club regularly been able to get the best out of him.

There’s no denying he has been unbelievably unlucky with injuries since joining from Ajax in 2020.

And had he not been injured in a pre-season game at Brighton soon after playing a major part in Timo Werner's first goal, in what was Ziyech's first appearance for his new club, who knows how differently things might have been for both men?

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Each time he has threatened to put a run of good form together, however, there has been a setback and, unsurprisingly, the stop-start nature of his time has hindered him greatly.

Against Juve, he showed what a player he can be, albeit after copping an early earful from his boss Thomas Tuchel, who wasn’t best pleased with one or two things he was seeing.

Tuchel isn’t the only manager who has had his frustrations with Ziyech, with Morocco manager Vahid Halilhodzic scathing of his input on international duty early in the season.

“He hasn’t been disciplined in the last two rallies and has refrained from training,” said Halilhodzic. “For the first time in my coaching career, I saw a national team player who doesn’t want to train and claims to be injured, although tests have shown he can play. I won’t tolerate it. Not this behaviour as long as I coach Morocco.”

Eden Hazard will always be adored by the Stamford Bridge faithful despite his 2020 move to Real Madrid

Ziyech hit back on social media, saying: “Next time when you speak SPEAK THE TRUTH THEN…!”, amusingly adding a clown emoji for good measure.

Whether Halilhodzic is right or wrong, the problem for many observers is that they will often conclude there’s no smoke without fire.

With only Chelsea to focus on for now, then, Ziyech finds himself fit again and in a position whereby he can prove Halihodzic and other doubters wrong.

Hazard was never exactly a beacon of hard work and there were times he, too, could be seriously frustrating.

It comes with the territory for such mercurial talents.

Thomas Tuchel hasn't been afraid to give Hakim Ziyech a rocket at times during games this season
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Image:
Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

But when he did ultimately leave Chelsea for Real, no one doubted that he was one of the best players in the world.

Ziyech, it seems, is blessed with the tools to reach levels that aren’t dissimilar to those Hazard reached.

But he needs to bring them to work with him week in, week out if he is ever to feel the same affection from the Stamford Bridge faithful.

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