(Africanfootball.com) AFC Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech may be regarded as one of the best on-field stars of the Eredivisie, but he has come in for criticism in regards to his dealings with the media.
The Moroccan playmaker has been branded dour and sullen for the way he comes across in interviews, which is a strange irony given that his playing style is so exciting.
Yet Ziyech’s teammates at both international and club level have come to the defence of the 25-year-old, insisting that his media persona hides a man with a great sense of humour.
"I sometimes hear people say that he should be happier, he would laugh too little in interviews, for example, then I think he does not have to be a clown, some feel the need to hang the clown in front of the camera. Is not that right?" Morocco teammate Nordin Amrabat told ELF Football.
"In addition, Hakim laughs enough. Believe me. He has a lot of humour," added Amrabat, whose words are echoed by Ziyech’s Ajax teammate and fellow Moroccan international Noussair Mazraoui.
"If you do not know what he is, Hakim will not give in,” explained the 21-year-old right-back.
“If he does not like something, he says so, he does not let himself play with him, and if he is attacked, he defends himself, and not everyone dares [to do this].
"He did, [and] unfortunately people wrongfully applied the label ‘arrogant’."
Ziyech is set to feature for Ajax in their Eredivisie clash away to PEC Zwolle on Saturday night.
The Morocco international extended his goalscoring run in the Dutch Eredivisie with an effort at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadion
Hakim Ziyech contributed a goal and an assist as Ajax thrashed Excelsior 7-1 on Sunday.
The 25-year-old maintained his fine form for the Johan Cruyff Arena outfit with his fifth goal in his last six league outings.
In the 79th minute, the Atlas Lions’ playmaker benefitted from Nicolas Tagliafico's assist to register his seventh league goal of the season before setting David Neres up for Ajax's last goal in the encounter.
Ziyech, Noussair Mazraoui and Andre Onana who made Goal Africa Team of the Month for October were on parade for Erik ten Hag's men as they help extend the unbeaten run to 11 games across all competitions.
Ajax, placed second in the Dutch top-flight standings, continue to pile pressure on leaders PSV.
Around 5 years ago, nobody would have expected Morocco to qualify for the world cup. Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire were the powerhouses of African football, possessing the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba, but as time progressed the Moroccans have slowly established a competitive squad. Part of the reason for their recent success has been the emergence of young Moroccan players in Europe's top flight leagues.
Achraf Hakimi, born in Madrid, joined Real Madrid's youth set-up at the tender age of 8 and made his professional debut for the club 11 years later. Zinedine Zidane decided to call up the youngster to the Los Blancos squad as a backup for Dani Carvajal, and he quickly impressed all with his defensive skills when needed. The 20-year-old is currently on loan at Borussia Dortmund, where he already has 3 assists.
Hakim Ziyech, a more prominent Moroccan player, has graced the Eredivisie with his presence. The Dutch-Moroccan player rose through Heerenveen's youth academy before going on to be a vital player in the first team. Just 25 years old, Ziyech is already one of Ajax's star players, scoring 22 goals in just over 70 club appearances.
Another Moroccan rising through Ajax's first team set-up is Noussair Mazraoui. Born in Liederdrop, Mazraoui made over 50 appearances for Jong Ajax (Ajax's youth team) before breaking into the professional squad. This season, Mazraoui has become the club's starting right-back and has even gone on to score a goal against Benfica in the Champions League.
Although not very young in terms of a footballing career, the center-back duo of Romain Saïss and Medhi Benatia have been tearing it up in Europe. Saïss roamed around France, representing Le Havre and Angers SCO before becoming an integral part of Wolverhampton Wanderer's EFL Championship win and promotion to the Premier League.
Benatia, on the other hand, racked up just about 80 appearances for Udinese before spells at Roma, Bayern Munich, and Juventus established him as one of the world's best defenders.
Head coach Hervé Renard certainly has a lot of potential and experienced players at his disposal, and the Moroccan team should be strong contenders for next year's Africa Cup of Nation tournament in Cameroon.