The very first time that I know of that Everton was linked to Hakim Ziyech was 2014. He was 21 years old, playing for Heerenveen, and honestly probably not good enough to play in the English Premier League. Fast forward five years, and he is 26, part of an Ajax side that is absolutely storming Europe, and is linked with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, if German media outlet Sport is to be believed. The player will reportedly cost 43m and would probably slot in on the right wing across from Richarlison.
I have already laid out why I do not think Everton trying to buy off of Ajax would be good business this summer, and the further the Dutch club goes in Europe, the more of a premium they will charge for their players. Not everyone who looks great at a Champion’s League darling will work in the English Premier League, just ask Chelsea how Bakayoko worked out after Monaco’s deep run a few years back. (On second thought, that is probably Chelsea’s fault for being dumb enough to play a Kante/Bakayoko double pivot.)
Even if you are not opposed to raiding Ajax on principle, Ziyech is not the right player to pursue. Much attention will of course be called to the fact that he has 15 goals and 12 assists so far in the same league and for a team that Davy Klaassen once produced 14 and 9 in as a midfielder, but frankly that should not move the needle as much as it is. Ziyech is 26 and has only ever played in the Eredivisie. In terms of a season long grind he is entering his prime completely untested in any league of top five quality, much less one as elite and physical as the English Premier League. A 43m outlay for a player of that age and lack of top experience represents a very significant risk.
Ziyech’s shot, key pass, goal, and assist numbers are outstanding but his numbers are not without things that give you pause. Per 90 minutes in the Eredivisie, he loses possession 6.1 times (unsuccessful touches and dispossesed). To compare this to something closer to a known Premier League entity, Dusan Tadic who plays on the opposite wing of Ziyech only has 5.2 losses of possession per 90, despite producing 7 more goals and only one less assist than Ziyech. What’s more, Ziyech simply does not take very good shots. His goal tally is more a product of sheer volume than it is good shot taking (remember when we signed someone called Sandro Ramirez on the same basis?)
Europe's top two volume shooters are facing each other in tonight's CL game between Juventus and Ajax.— Row-Z Report (@RowzReport) April 16, 2019
Ronaldo and Ziyech are taking over 5.5 shots a game this season, however Ziyech's chance quality (measured by avg xG) is on the lower scale - around only 0.06 avg xG. pic.twitter.com/3y2U3Fo7W1
This insecurity in possession is not horrible for someone as central to a possession based offense as Ziyech is, but it does raise fair questions when combined with his age and probable price tag. The shot volume to results suggests to me that this is a guy who will probably be a decent creator but not a reliable scorer. He’s a good player in a system that suits his abilities perfectly. That, said, the question ultimately boils down to this: would you pay 40m for someone who performs at more or less the level of Dusan Tadic? I certainly wouldn’t.