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Under-fire winger back in Chelsea frame after ‘clown’ stands firm

Chelsea will be able to call on the services of Hakim Ziyech next month after the winger was omitted from the Morocco squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 28-year-old has enjoyed 40 international appearances to date after making his debut in October 2015. Born in the Netherlands, the former Ajax ace originally played his international football for the Dutch. He represented Oranje at Under-20 and Under-21 level before opting to switch his allegiance to the Africans.

And he has certainly made a telling contribution to The Atlas Lions, scoring 17 goals. However, the ex-FC Twente star will not add to that tally in the upcoming showpiece event.

He had a very public falling out with Morocco manager Vahid Halilhodzic during the summer. And it seems as though the pair have not settled their differences.

Ziyech has not been selected for any of Morocco’s six World Cup qualifiers. Halilhodzic accused the midfielder of reporting late for international duty, among other things.

“Ziyech’s behaviour in the last two matches, was not that of a national team player,” he said at the time, per The Sun. “As a leader of the team, he has to be a positive role model… he arrived late, and then even refused to work.

“For me the national team comes above everything. Nobody can hold it hostage. For the first time in my career I have seen behaviour that disappoints me.”

Ziyech responded on Instagram, by writing, “Next time when you speak, SPEAK THE TRUTH THEN…!!!”.

The accompanying clown emoji did not go down too well but Morocco’s loss is Chelsea’s gain.

Ziyech available but doubts remain on future

Chelsea’s title challenge has stuttered in the past few weeks. A loss to West Ham and two draws has seen the Blues fall six points behind table-topping Manchester City.

Next up is a trip to the West Midlands on Boxing Day to take on Aston Villa. Ziyech should be available but his long-term Stamford Bridge future hangs in the balance.

Having failed to live up to expectations, he has been linked with an exit from west London. Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Barcelona have all been mentioned as suitors.

But a report earlier his week suggested he is unlikely to leave in the winter window. Unhappy with his game time, the man from Dronten is reportedly becoming frustrated with life at Chelsea.

He has started six times among 10 Premier League outings in 2021-2022. Thomas Tuchel has chosen to use him in the Champions League, however, with five appearances in the group stage.

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