Watching a video montage in an Amsterdam theatre was not how Hakim Ziyech expected the curtain to come down on his Ajax career, but it didn’t make the ending any less emotional for the man who is joining Chelsea this summer.
Last month, the Eredivisie season was declared null and void because of the coronavirus pandemic, and with that decision went any chance Ziyech had of bidding farewell to Ajax by helping them secure a second straight title.
Instead Ziyech was brought to the Tuschinski movie theatre in the centre of the Dutch capital, where he watched highlights from his four years at Ajax alongside messages from team-mates past and present in a video titled ‘Wizard of AMS’. You can watch it here, with subtitles available.
‘It’s a bit strange,’ said Ziyech. ‘You know that everything comes to an end, but it’s a strange way of closing this chapter.
‘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.’
During the video, Ziyech reflects on his progress during his time at Ajax, and the biggest change he underwent since 2016.
‘Mostly the enjoyment. As a footballer of course you develop, but it’s not radically different.
‘Maybe some things are better now or go more easily, but that’s largely a result of the love of the game you have.
‘I think I’m still just a kid kicking a ball. Whether we training or playing a match, even when the pressure was high, I’d go out thinking: let’s play football. Even when the pressure was huge I would never let it get to me. It’s just being a kid again when you see the ball. That will never go away.’
Former Blue and ex-Ajax team-mate Bertrand Traore was among those to send a message to the Morrocan star, as was his captain Daley Blind.
‘I enjoyed sharing the pitch with you, I enjoyed your brilliance,’ he said.
‘I’ll keep enjoying you and following you at Chelsea. Good luck, we will meet again.’
Responding to the messages of warmth which highlight the esteem he is held in, Ziyech said:
‘Beautiful, beautiful. These guys have been so important in my career before Ajax and with Ajax. They supported me in the hard times and always had my back.
‘These guys helped me a lot in my development as a player and a person. I learn from them every day.’
There was a final twist when Ziyech’s mother left a message of her own, reducing the 27-year-old attacker, who has signed a five-year contract at Chelsea, to tears.
‘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 composed himself before reacting.
‘Of course, I know what I’m doing it for. It’s the words your mother often says to you. My mother.
‘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 her 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.’