Hakim Ziyech of Ajax celebrates scoring their second goal with Dusan Tadic during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur at the Johan Cruyff Arena on May 8, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
All it took was one summer being banned from making transfers for Chelsea to forget how the transfer window system works entirely. A fortnight after the January window closed to the sound of steam escaping from a frustrated Frank Lampard’s ears, Chelsea made the first big signing of the summer yesterday when sealing a £36m deal for Ajax star Hakim Ziyech.
It’s not a bad first signing for Lampard, as he gets his hands on legitimately one of the most exciting players in world football. Ziyech might not have the ability of Lionel Messi, the boundless potential of Kylian Mbappe or the engine of Jordan Henderson, but the Morocco international has that rare quality: total unpredictability and the ability to biff it into the top corner from almost anywhere.
Lampard 'delighted' to bring Ziyech to Chelsea
You can tell Ziyech is special from the way Ajax are simply delighted to have him available for three more months. "A transfer was coming, we expected it to happen," said head coach Erik ten Hag. "And I actually already expected this one or two years earlier. And each time it was: 'Wow, he stayed again.' We are just happy that we will still have him until the end of the season."
As reported by the BBC, this is a player who has created 134 (ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOUR) more goalscoring opportunities than any other player in the Eredivisie since his move to Ajax in 2016. A player who played a role in three goals in the 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Ajax in the Champions League in November.
In fact, since the start of the 2017-18 season, no player in Europe’s top eight leagues has more assists or chances created – and only two players have taken more shots. There’s a reason Ajax call him their “wizard”.
Simply put, Ziyech is the kind of player who could legitimately be a long-term replacement for Eden Hazard; the kind of player who will have fans, pundits and probably other players swooning over him; the kind of player to light up the Premier League, as so many entertainers from foreign shores have done so before him.
Thanks, Chelsea, for finally getting a handle on how these things called transfers work.
Milan denied by joke of a penalty
Cristiano Ronaldo, Calabria - Milan-Juventus - Coppa Italia 2019/2020 - Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo continued his ridiculous run of form last night, ensuring he has bagged at least one goal in 14 of his past 16 games as his injury-time penalty rescued a 1-1 draw for Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against AC Milan. But only after an absolutely scandalous VAR decision.
Ante Rebic had put Milan in front after the hour mark and it looked like being a superb result for the home side, who had lost Theo Hernandez to a red card with 18 minutes to go. But then this happened:
This is obviously an idiotic decision. Davide Calabria *wasn’t even looking at the ball* as Ronaldo booted it against his arm.
His arm was away from his body, sure, but not in an unnatural position *if you have just jumped into the air to try and head the ball away*. Try leaping up high with your arms stuck to your sides.
At full speed, there was *a split second* between Ronaldo connecting and the ball striking Calabria. And even the rules of the game state there will be no penalty “if the ball touches a player's hand/arm immediately from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player.”
All of which just goes to show, you can add as much technology to the game as you want, but Juventus will still be on the right end of mystifying penalty decisions.
Mirandes still alive
Martin Odegaard of Real Sociedad celebrates 2-1 during the Spanish Copa del Rey match between Real Sociedad v Mirandes at the Estadio Anoeta
Image credit: Getty Images
This year’s Copa del Rey fairy tale of choice is still very much a live one after Segunda Division Mirandes lost narrowly 2-1 away at Real Sociedad in the first leg of their semi-final. Mirandes got back level through Matheus Rodrigues, only for Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard to score the winner.
Real Sociedad are favourites to progress now, but Mirandes reached the semi-finals eight years ago too and have dumped out three top-flight sides so far – so don’t rule anything out.
You can just picture the moment the realisation hits.
“MATE WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT DRIVING??? YOU’VE DINGED MY MOTOR AND THAT WORK ISN’T GOING TO BE CHEAP. GIVE ME YOUR INSUR….
“Ah wow, loved that goal you scored against Leverkusen that time. Can I get a pic?”
IN THE CHANNELS
Viasport have landed an exclusive interview with Erling Haaland, who seemed keen to address those suggestions that he and his camp were “greedy” in their negotiations with Manchester United. If you recall, United briefed that a deal fell through because Haaland’s agent, Mino Raiola, wanted a cut of any future transfer – leaving the path clear for Dortmund to sign him for what already looks like a paltry £17m.
And Haaland thinks it’s been funny – really, really definitely funny – that people have labelled him “greedy” as a result.
"No, it's the guys writing would have to speak to that," he told Viasport. "They'll have to explain it to me if they meet me. It's not my focus, whatsoever. It's kind of comical if I were to get that label. All the people closest to me know that's not the kind of person I am. It's really been kind of comical."
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Gianluigi Buffon
How long has this man been playing elite football? This long…
Clubs make a big play of supporting anti-racist initiatives and then do something like this.
There’s some Monday Night Football for you as Wolves and Leicester – two future members of the Big Six, who are patiently waiting for Manchester United and Arsenal to formally resign their positions – meet at Molineux. There’s also Hull v Swansea in The Championship, and remember you can watch highlights of all the EFL action on Quest on Saturday evening.
Monday is 23% more entertaining every time Marcus Foley drops his latest Warm-Up.