Why is Hakim Ziyech in Morocco’s World Cup squad after retiring from international football earlier this year? Chelsea outcast makes dramatic U-turn

    Hakim Ziyech’s international career has been full of twists and turns, but it’s unlikely anyone saw this coming.

    The Chelsea outcast retired from playing for Morocco earlier this year and insisted he wouldn’t go back, but he has been included in their squad for the Qatar World Cup.

    Ziyech is back in the fold for his country

    Getty

    Ziyech is back in the fold for his country

    Why is Hakim Ziyech playing for Morocco again?

    Ziyech announced his retirement from international football in February this year after he was left out of the Africa Cup of Nations squad by Vahid Halilhodzic.

    The former Morocco boss initially fell out with Ziyech in June 2021 after the playmaker refused to play in a friendly.

    Also, the manager wasn’t a fan of the Chelsea man’s attitude and didn’t hold back when discussing why Ziyech wasn’t called up for the AFCON: “The players I have selected are the best in the country.

    “I don’t select a player who can unbalance the group.

    “Not even if his name is Lionel Messi. Ziyech’s behaviour does not fit the selection.

    “He doesn’t want to train, doesn’t want to play. He doesn’t take it seriously. I’m not going to beg him to come back.”

    Ziyech has barely featured for Chelsea this season but could play a key role for Morocco

    Getty

    Ziyech has barely featured for Chelsea this season but could play a key role for Morocco

    Ziyech decided enough was enough after that snub and announced he was retiring from the national team and didn’t give any indication he would return.

    “Obviously, I understand them but I will not return to the national team.

    “Yes, it’s my final decision. It’s all clear for me how things are going over there, it’s all clear for me and I am focussing on what I am doing and that right now is on my club.

    “Of course, who doesn’t but at the end of the day, it’s a decision he makes and you have to respect it, but on the other hand, if all the lying comes with it, it’s clear for me.

    “Like I said before I will not return to the national team. I understand and I feel sorry for them.”

    That looked like it would be the end of that as far as Ziyech’s international career was concerned.

    Halilhodzic and Ziyech didn’t get on

    AFP

    Halilhodzic and Ziyech didn’t get on

    But Halilhodzic was sacked in August, and new head coach Walid Regragui has moved swiftly to repair the damage with Ziyech.

    In 41 international appearances, he has scored 17 goals and provided ten assists – plus, he can play on either wing or behind the striker.

    It isn’t surprising that Morocco have brought Ziyech back, and the player ‘immediately accepted’ the invitation to rejoin the Atlas Lions.

    Certainly, it’s been a rough year or so for Ziyech at club and international level, but hopefully, he can have a great World Cup and remind everyone how talented he is.

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