The Ajax star had once vowed never to play in the Morocco stripes under the French tactician
Herve Renard has shouldered ‘99%’ of the blame for Hakim Ziyech's decision to desert Morocco in the past.
Both parties got off to an underwhelming start, with the Ajax star frustrated at the treatment he received from the Frenchman.
Renard's first test as Morocco's coach was a 2017 African Cup of Nations doubleheader against Cape Verde in March 2016.
Ziyech, who had been impressive in the campaign, was dropped for the first leg before being handed a substitute role in the reverse fixture in Marrakech.
He was then left out of the preliminary squad for the finals in Gabon.
The decision prompted the Ajax star to declare his intention never to return to the national team fold as long as the Afcon-winning manager remained in charge. He stuck to the decision until the problem was resolved later.
Now, Renard has finally accepted that he was at fault.
"I was appointed coach. I start training on Monday. We play on Saturday in Cape Verde on a synthetic field with a lot of wind; a typical African game with the characteristics that I know. I put Hakim in the stands, we start on a difficult base, we play the return to Morocco three days later, he returns for 25 minutes, but he was certainly not satisfied with the stage in its entirety,” Renard said on Le Vestiaire, a RMC Sport show.
“I made a mistake here. Do not talk to him, everyone is on his side, the situation is tense, he's coming back, the third time he's a little hurt... until I do not pick him any more.”
Renard maintained that Ziyech's character ‘remained impeccable’ in spite of all he faced.
"There is nothing about it. He has never shown bad character, he never reacted badly, on the contrary, he remained impeccable, even if, of course, he was not satisfied, and after a year, my president told me, 'We need to go see him, you see the season he's doing.'
"I said 'yes, on his qualities, there is nothing to say, that's what we need,” he continued.
"We went to Amsterdam and after three minutes of conversation, everything was settled, he wanted to come back, he is very attached to the national team, I needed him and I recognized my mistakes."
Ziyech has not only become a star performer in Renard's squad, he is now one of the best players in Europe.
His showings this season has helped Ajax reach the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League, dumping out Real Madrid and Juventus in the process. And they have their eyes set on the Eredivisie title.
He starred in Morocco’s underwhelming outing at the 2018 Fifa World Cup and is set to play a crucial role at his first Afcon finals in June.
The Atlas Lions have been placed in Group D alongside Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Namibia.
According to Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr, the Nigeria Football Federation are in talks with their Moroccan counterparts over a friendly ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Shortly after the AFCON draw, Rohr revealed that the three-time African champions will face Senegal in a friendly before the start of the tournament in Egypt, and this has been confirmed by Senegalese Football Association President, Augustin Senghor.
Another friendly with West African rivals Ghana had been proposed but the game is unlikely to hold because the Black Stars have chosen to hold a three-week get-together in the United Arab Emirates as part of their preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Asked by Medias24 if he would like to face Morocco as part of preparations, Rohr said: ''There is a possibility that we play a friendly match against Morocco before the AFCON, but nothing is decided yet.
''We really like playing against this good team from Morocco. But in March, it was not possible because we already had a scheduled friendly meeting with Egypt at home in Nigeria.''
The Atlas Lions, who are one of the favourites to win the 2019 AFCON, have not met the Super Eagles in an international match since 2004.
While a bad joke, the comment suggests that many in Egypt consider Morocco’s Lions as one of the toughest challenges standing in the way of the Pharaohs’ CAN 2019 aspirations.
By Morocco World News -
Rabat – Ahmed Shobair, a former Egyptian football star who now hosts one of Egypt’s most popular football shows, has made a bad joke about Morocco’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) prospects. The Egyptian said that he wishes Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech had been injured.
Speaking about what to expect from each of the CAN contenders on his “Malaab on” show aired on ON Sport, Shobair asked his guest which Moroccan player would be unavailable for the rest of the season due to a serious injury.
The guest correctly answered the trivia question. He pointed out that Achraf Hakimi, who recently suffered a metatarsal injury, is set to miss the remainder of the season with his German club, Dortmund, as well as his national team heading to Egypt for CAN in the summer.
Shobair commented, however, that he wished Hakim Ziyech had sustained the injury instead of Hakimi.
Revengeful for Real Madrid or worried for Egypt?
Since moving to Ajax in 2016, Ziyech has established himself as an invaluable starter. The 26-year old attacking midfielder feels comfortable in almost all positions demanding creativity and technical ease.
His consistently stellar performances with club and country have won him a good reputation, with many considering him as the creative mastermind of coach Herve Renard’s attack-minded Atlas Lions.
Shobair, however, a diehard Real Madrid fan, is said to be holding grudges against the Moroccan player for his role in the 4-1 home humiliation of the Spanish club during their Champions League second leg with Dutch club Ajax.
Ziyech scored Ajax’s first goal in what many Real Madrid supporters will remember as the team’s most spirit-crushing Champions League defeat in decades.
But the Egyptian’s comments did also carry a significant echo to the upcoming 2019 CAN to be played in Egypt between June 21 and July 19.
Shobair’s comments came in the wake of the CAN 2019 draw.
Morocco has been drawn in the competition’s “group of death,” while Egypt features in a fairly playable Group A along with Congo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. But the prospects of a Morocco vs. Egypt game remain open for the later stages.
Based on their current FIFA standings, past CAN records, and recent matches, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, and Algeria are largely considered to be the tournament’s favorites.
#TotalAFCON2019 games for #Morocco revealed
2⃣3⃣ June 2019
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Stadium: Al Salam Stadium, Cairo
🕟 14h30 GMT
2⃣8⃣ June 2019
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Stadium: Al Salam Stadium, Cairo
🕖 17h00 GMT
1⃣ July 2019
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Stadium: Al Salam Stadium, Cairo
🕓 16h00 GMT