Arsenal have been heavily linked with a move for Ajax star Hakim Ziyech in recent weeks and he could be the man to fill Mesut Ozil’s boots long-term.
According to the Daily Express, the Gunners are expected to launch a bid for the 26-year-old this summer, having been impressed by his performances over the course of the 2018-19 campaign.
The Express reports the Morrocan ace has even revealed it is his “dream” to one day play for Arsenal, as he told Ajax TV: “Well, I have two clubs. They are Arsenal and Barcelona. That is my ultimate dream.”
BBC Sport states Ajax have already announced Ziyech will leave the club this summer and Arsenal are among a long list of potential suitors, which also includes Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Manchester United.
It would appear that the Gunners already have the edge in this particular transfer saga given the mercurial winger’s own admission regarding his preferred next destination and he could help to solve a major issue in Unai Emery’s squad.
Metro Sport reports Mesut Ozil could be on his way out of Emirates Stadium this summer after the club issued him with a stern ultimatum – sign a renewal or be sold in the transfer window.
The German midfielder still has two years remaining on his existing deal with Arsenal, but if he is unwilling to pledge his future to the club beyond that, it may be the right time to cash in on a prized asset.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed talismanic status at the Emirates since his 2013 move from Real Madrid and Ziyech even admitted idolising the Arsenal ace during his interview with Ajax TV.
As per Metro Sport, he stated when pressed on who he looks up to in the game: “Yes, I actually do have one. [Mesut] Ozil.”
Ziyech also responded to a later question asking if he was now at the same level as Ozil: “No, I’m not even close to Ozil’s level.”
Despite the Ajax star’s modesty, at this moment in time, he is streaks ahead of the Germany international in terms of his impact on the biggest stage, having just won a domestic double in the Netherlands while also appearing in a Champions League semi-final.
But what exactly can Ziyech offer Arsenal? Caught Offside examines his potential below.
Who is Hakim Ziyech?
Ziyech is a Morroco international who has been on the books of Ajax at club level since 2016, having taken in previous spells at FC Twente and Heerenveen in the Eredivisie.
After an impressive 2017-18 campaign which saw him earn a prominent role in the starting line up at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, he took his game to another level this season, contributing 21 goals and 24 assists in 49 matches across all competitions.
Ziyech is known for his superb dribbling skills, pace, finishing ability and brilliance from set pieces, which combined with his outstanding technical ability, make him a lethal all-around attacking midfielder.
Stand-out moment this season
Ziyech has wowed audiences across Europe with his displays in the Champions League this term and he managed to contribute five goals to the Ajax cause during their superb run to the semi-finals.
Erik ten Hag’s side suffered a shocking exit at the hands of Tottenham in the last four, but Ziyech’s superb strike in the second leg was arguably the goal of the tie.
The Morrocan put Ajax 2-0 up in Amsterdam after lashing the ball into the far right-hand corner of the net, taking a pass from Dusan Tadic first time on the edge of the box.
Check out the superb effort below, via Twitter.
Ziyech with a spectacular goal to put Ajax up 2-0 over Tottenham ? pic.twitter.com/2FAOiXKLc2
— Grind City Media (@grindcitymedia) May 8, 2019
How much is Ziyech worth?
The outgoing Ajax star has a £25 million buy-out clause in his current contract, which arguably makes him the bargain transfer target of the summer – as per the Daily Express.
Arsenal could end up signing the perfect replacement for Ozil on the cheap, which would represent a huge coup for the club heading into the 2019-20 campaign.
Ziyech’s value will likely only increase in the coming years and the Gunners must act quickly to fight off intense competition from a whole host of top clubs around Europe.
At the moment, Arsenal are in pole position to sign Ziyech and unless Barcelona decide to enter the race for his signature, they could seal a deal in the coming weeks.
The Gunners are lacking support up front for first choice strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, with talismanic midfielder Aaron Ramsey set to depart for Juventus in June.
If Ozil follows the Welshman out the exit door at the Emirates, Arsenal will have to bring in attacking reinforcements and Ziyech could provide Unai Emery’s side with a quality new dimension in the final third of the pitch.
This particular story is one to keep an eye on, but Arsenal must first ensure they have Champions League football to offer to new recruits this summer by beating Chelsea in the Europa League final on May 29.