New Chelsea signing Hakim Ziyech broke down in tears as Ajax gave the playmaker an emotional send-off ahead of his summer switch to Stamford Bridge.
The west London club announced in mid-February that they had agreed a £33.3million deal for Ziyech to join in July, with the 27-year-old becoming Frank Lampard’s first signing.
However, Ziyech was denied the chance to leave Ajax in style when the Eredivisie season was declared null and void due to the coronavirus crisis, so he was given a dramatic farewell ceremony by the club instead which tugged at the heartstrings.
Ziyech was brought to the Tuschinski theatre in Amsterdam to be shown a series of clips and messages, where he admitted it was hugely difficult to leave Ajax without a proper goodbye.
“It’s a bit strange.
You know that everything comes to an end. But it’s, you know…. It’s a strange way of closing this chapter.’ Asked if he had ever imagined he would leave Ajax in such fashion, Ziyech said: “No. Not what I had imagined, no. I am happy to take the next step, but you don’t want to end it like this. It feels as if you didn’t pass the exams, that’s how it feels. ‘You’re powerless. It doesn’t feel like the season ended successfully.”
Ziyech started to get emotional as the interviewer suggested he should have been substituted in the final game to a standing ovation, to which he replied: ‘That would have been the perfect end. “But unfortunately that wasn’t meant to be for me.”
Ziyech was then shown a selection of messages from his Ajax teammates, past and present, wishing him good luck at Chelsea – with even Tottenham rival Davinson Sanchez sending in a video clip.
‘I enjoyed sharing the pitch with you, I enjoyed your brilliance,’ said skipper Daley Blind. “I’ll keep enjoying you and following you at Chelsea. Good luck, we will meet again.”
It was a final message from the Moroccan’s mother that really sent him over the edge as he teared up when she popped up on screen. “I’m really happy for you that you will go to London,” she said. “Do your best, take good care, and behave like a gentleman. I love you and I am proud of you. Good luck in London.”
Ziyech had to take a moment to compose himself as tears streamed down his face, saying: “Of course, I know what I’m doing it for. It’s the words your mother often says to you.:
‘She’s a proud woman. I can see that she’s proud although she tries to hide it. Just knowing the hard life that she’s had, you know. “She came here at a young age, raised nine kids. Eight or nine. Lost her husband too soon. And then you’re on your own. It’s all for her. I do it because I love it, but it’s all for her. If it wasn’t for her, I’d have quit football a long time ago.”
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By Mthokozisi Dube