clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hakim Ziyech: Roma’s Best Mahrez Alternative?

Umm, yes please.

Ajax Amsterdam v Legia Warszawa - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

You know what they say about the weather in certain places—don’t like it? Wait five minutes, it’ll change. Well, this time of year that idiom applies to transfer rumors as well. Don’t like the latest name connected to your club in the morning? Wait till lunch, it’ll change. And when it comes to Roma, that rule applies in spades. With new names and targets popping up every few hours, I’ve completely lost track of how many rumors we’ve covered and to whom the club has been connected. Transfer rumors always move at a furious pace, but something about this summer—the pace and spread of rumors—has been unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.

Just a couple of hours ago, we spoke about the strange link to Diego Laxalt, and while he might be a solid addition, the rumor in and of itself didn’t hold water, yet it cropped up in multiple places. And, well, here we are, only a couple hours after that story appeared and we’re already pivoting to another name.

With Riyad Mahrez looking increasingly likely to stay at Leicester, or at least not moving to Roma, the club has been (for several weeks now) exploring alternative options. From Suso (decided to stay at Milan) to Lucas Vazquez (Roma was rejected), Monchi is scouring the globe to find a dangerous inverted right winger. Whether or not this is what Roma truly needs is immaterial, Eusebio Di Francesco’s single minded focus on this one specific trait has tailored the club’s entire transfer campaign, and quite frankly, I didn’t know that many even existed, but again, check our transfer archives, apparently left-footed right wingers grow on trees.

Well, according to some certain sources, we can add another name to that orchard, a familiar name around these parts., Ajax’s Moroccan/Dutch winger Hakim Ziyech. After paying his dues in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen, Twente and Ajax, an incredible stretch in which he scored 48 goals and contributed 47 assists, Ziyech is ripe for the plucking, as he has seemingly followed the typical 21st century path to greatness—light it up in Holland and then move onto larger European clubs.

Hey! Roma is a larger European club!

While there isn’t one specific media outlet trumping this move (we pinged it from Romanews), it makes a ton of sense. Not only would Ziyech cost some €15 to €20 million less than Mahrez—though with Liverpool interested those savings may dwindle—but he’s younger and, some would argue, better than Mahrez. In addition to having age on his side (though only two years to be fair), he hasn’t suffered the same dramatic ups and downs as Mahrez, cracking double figures in assists in each of the past three seasons, while matching that feat in scoring in two of the past four seasons.

Granted, the level of play between the Eredivisie and the Premiership is a factor, but we’re not comparing the amount of production, simply the consistency. Ziyech has thoroughly dominated the Dutch league for the past three years, amassing an astounding 48 goals and 47 assists—you don’t see that level of productivity and balance too often, especially not in such a young player.

Oh, and did we mention that Ziyech is...drum roll, please...LEFT FOOTED AND PLAYS ON THE RIGHT! True, he may not be an out and out winger, but Ziyech is so supremely skilled in virtually every aspect of attacking football, that you find a place for him to play, positions be damned. Hakim the Dream can seemingly spell everyone from Kevin Strootman, to Diego Perotti and even Edin Dzeko; you make room for a kid like that, not excuses.

There’s not much time left in the transfer window, so if Roma truly has moved on from Mahrez, they need to get a move on finding his replacement. This single minded pursuit of Mahrez has come at the cost of continuity—had they moved on sooner or at least kept open negotiations with several different players, Roma’s new right winger could have been signed, sealed and delivered by now.

So while we can credit the club with giving a good faith effort in the Mahrez negotiations, the time to leave the table has long since passed. Ziyech is younger, cheaper, more versatile and has a higher upside.

Act fast, supplies won’t last!