(Reuters) - Hakim Ziyech reacted with a fit of pique when he was left out of Morocco’s squad for last year’s African Nations Cup finals and vowed he would never play international football again.
Some six months later he was netting key goals for the north Africans as they surged past the more fancied Ivory Coast in their qualifying group to book a place at the World Cup finals in Russia.
It is characteristic of the 25-year-old, Dutch-born wide player to react tempestuously in adversity but he is also admired for his understated manner in celebrating his success.
Coach Herve Renard felt he could not assure the mercurial Ajax midfielder of a starting berth in his line-up for the Nations Cup and preferred not to have such a strong personality brooding on the bench.
But Ziyech’s absence was something Moroccans could ill-afford in their bid to earn a first World Cup place in 20 years, and Renard traveled to patch up the relationship.
Going into next month’s World Cup finals, it is Ziyech who could prove the team’s talisman if Morocco can overcome a difficult draw.
“Ziyech is a player whom everyone is always talking about,” wrote the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad.
“It is because in a single game he can manage to be both absolutely brilliant and astonishingly sloppy.”
His consistent inconsistency drives Ajax supporters to distraction and they often subject him to a humiliating concert of derisory whistles. Earlier this month however, they also voted him their player of the season.
Ziyech intends to move on from Ajax after the World Cup and the finals present him with a stage to attract top-quality suitors.
“I have little left to achieve in the Netherlands and I feel I need a new challenge,” he said.
Editing by Peter Rutherford