Former AC Milan head coach Arrigo Sacchi has had his say on the potential signing of Hakim Ziyech and whether he would be enough to help close the gap to Napoli.
La Gazzetta dello Sport begin their report by stating that Milan have identified their target for the January transfer market and it is Ziyech. The Moroccan is currently at Chelsea where he has been struggling for playing time, while he has been followed for some time by the Rossoneri management.
Now it seems there could be a ‘powerful acceleration in the negotiation’ as per the paper, with the 29-year-old’s performances at the World Cup having certainly helped convince Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara.
Arrigo Sacchi, who is familiar with international football and of course what Milan need, has evaluated the possible arrival of Ziyech in an interview with La Gazzetta.
What kind of player is Ziyech?
“I asaw him at the World Cup against Spain. He has great technique and speed. I have to admit that when he was at Ajax it was believed he could become a true champion, but instead his progress slowed down. At Chelsea, for example, he’s not always among the starters.”
Could he be the right profile for Milan?
“I repeat: he’s a player with remarkable qualities, but technique isn’t enough to be successful, his feet aren’t enough, his dribbling isn’t enough. You need your head. As a person, I don’t know Ziyech and therefore I can’t express a judgement.
“But I trust Maldini, Massara and Pioli who, so far, have made little, if not very little, mistakes. If they have seen it and have followed it, and are convinced that it could be functional to the project, then they are right to buy it.”
The environment at Milan has had the ability to regenerate players who may be going through a tough period…
“Merit goes to the club and its history. Anyone who joins Milan must know that he has ended up at the second best club in the world, after Real Madrid. So anyone who is bought must feel they owe a debt of gratitude.
“Lately Milan have brought many players back to life, this should not be forgotten. And, on the contrary, those who have left Milan have always struggled to maintain high levels of performance. History says so, think about what happened to champions like Kaka and Shevchenko.”
How could Milan play with Ziyech?
“He’s very quick, he can stay in all three positions behind the striker. At Ajax, he always started from the left. But he has the quality to adapt. The important thing is that he has enthusiasm, availability, team spirit, motivation, because modern football will increasingly be a collective of intelligences: you can accommodate your feet, not your head.
“That’s why I tell Maldini, Massara and Pioli that, before technical qualities, they value human ones well. I can tell an anecdote… I arrived at Milan and there is a highly rated defender who is not behaving like a professional. He used to be in the national team. I go to Berlusconi and ask him to sell him.
“Berlusconi says to me: ‘And who can we take in his place?’ ‘No one – I reply – I’ll play his reserve’. ‘But if he’s a reserve he’s less good’. ‘Maybe yes – I conclude – but he’s more reliable’. I’ve always looked at the man first and then the footballer.”
With Ziyech, can Milan make the leap in quality to catch Napoli?
“Milan will make a leap in quality if they play as a team, as they did last season. All eleven need to run: eleven defend and eleven attack. Movement with and without the ball is fundamental. This is the best way to plan the pursuit of Napoli.
“In my Milan there was no one who didn’t play with the team and for the team, across the board and at full time. And in that group there were Gullit, Baresi, Van Basten, Donadoni, Maldini. Yet everyone sacrificed for others, because they had internalised a fundamental concept: football is a collective and not an individual sport.
“Portugal, against Switzerland, kept Cristiano Ronaldo out and look how he played and how he won! They won not with the individual, but with the team. Do we Italians want to put it in our heads too?”