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The next step for Hakim Ziyech

30 April 2018
With only one match round left in the Dutch Eredivisie, the start of the transfer window is nearly there. Just like in recent years, it is highly likely that Eredivisie clubs will be subject to lots of changes in their squads. For instance, newly elected Ajacied of the Year Hakim Ziyech will wonder whether staying at Ajax will help him develop into an even better player. What is the best choice for him? And in case of a transfer: to which club? As a sports tech firm, Remiqz finds answers to this questions based on two key indicators: the Euro Player Index and the Euro Club Index.

Ziyech’s performances

Before moving to Ajax in the summer of 2016, the playmaker showed his excellent skills at FC Twente and sc Heerenveen. At the moment Ziyech made his transfer from FC Twente to Ajax, his Euro Player Index (EPI) was 2737. Ziyech, scoring 17 goals and assisting 10 others in the 2015-2016 Eredivisie season, had an outstanding season individually as FC Twente only managed to finish in thirteenth place. After an additional four matches for FC Twente in the 2016-2017 season in which he scored two goals, Ajax decided to splash the cash for Ziyech. In the graph below, the EPI development of Ziyech is displayed for his entire career, starting at sc Heerenveen. Right now, the EPI of Ziyech is 3231 and the Moroccan international had his all-time high in May 2017, when Ajax performed outstanding in the UEFA Europe League by reaching the final in Stockholm.

Potential clubs

Assuming Ziyech wants to leave Ajax for a club in one of the big European leagues which is active in one of the European club competitions next season, we reduce the shortlist of leagues to the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, the Serie A and possibly the Ligue 1. As a next step in identifying the ideal club for Ziyech, we turn to the Euro Club Index (ECI) by which we can compare clubs across different leagues. At the moment, the ECI of Ajax is 2738. In case Ziyech wants to leave the Dutch league, it is reasonable to assume that the club concerned should be better than Ajax. From another perspective, Ziyech should be able to claim a reasonable number of minutes on the pitch, implying that the number of competitors (midfielders) that outperform Ziyech in terms of EPI should not be to big. Based on the criteria above, the first seven teams in the Premier League drop out. Whereas a club of the top six in the Premier League offers a significant improvement in terms of ECI, there are too many competing midfielders that outperform Ziyech. On the contrary, Burnley, the current number seven of the Premier League, is ranked lower on ECI (2610) than Ajax (2738) and therefore The Clarets are also removed from the shortlist.

Based on the ECI of the club and the quality of the midfielders of the clubs (in EPI), the shortlist as in table 1 is constructed for Ziyech. The clubs in table 1 are all active in either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League in the upcoming season. AS Roma turns out to be the potential club having the highest difference in ECI compared to Ajax. At the moment, La Lupa have three midfielders with a higher EPI than Ziyech: De Rossi (4056), Nainggolan (4161) and Strootman (3862). Based on this, Ziyech would be the fourth midfielder within the squad of AS Roma. It remains of course questionable whether Roma would be the right choice for Ziyech based on their playing style.

A club having less competitors in midfield is Villarreal CF. El Submarino Amarillo, the current number six in La Liga, have only one midfielder (Manu Trigueros, 3518) at their disposal having a higher EPI than Ziyech. Another club at which Ziyech would belong to one of the better midfielders right away is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Only Kaderábek (3377) and Amiri (3253) are better in midfield. A potential disadvantage of Hoffenheim is that the difference in ECI is only 93 compared to Ajax. It could be that one of the other clubs in table 1 will lose their high-quality midfielder(s) in the upcoming transfer window such that Ziyech’s possibilities for playing minutes at the club in question grow. For instance, it is known that Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04) will join FC Bayern München next summer and that his teammate Max Meyer has a contract expiring in June, already having turned down several offers of Schalke to renew his contract. The latter implying that Schalke 04 would be a suitable new club for Ziyech.

With the constraints of being active in a European cup tournament, the improvement in terms of the ECI and the level and number of competing midfielders at the club, there are several clubs that could be the ideal next step in the career of Ziyech. A more extensive analysis based on playing style and player characteristics would be the next step for Remiqz when it comes to finding the ideal club for Ziyech.

(Photos by Pro Shots)