Just when it seemed Hakim Ziyech’s international career was over, the head of Morocco’s football federation (FRMF) has said he could still be welcomed back into the national team set-up after all.
Chelsea winger Ziyech has not played for the Atlas Lions since June last year after a falling-out with coach Vahid Halilhodzic, and the 29-year-old announced his decision to quit international football in February.
But the FRMF still included Ziyech in their preliminary squad for their 2022 World Cup play-off tie against DR Congo last month, which the North Africans won 5-2 on aggregate to secure a spot at the finals in Qatar.
“The doors of the national team are open to all Moroccan players, regardless of their differences,” FMRF president Fouzi Lekjaa said during a board meeting this week.
“Nobody can stop a Moroccan player playing for the national team, whether it’s Ziyech or anyone else.”
Halilhodzic, who was appointed Morocco coach in August 2019, has said that Ziyech “lacks respect” and, when speaking at the recent World Cup draw, that the saga of his international career was “over”.
Yet Lekjaa’s comments hint at a rapprochement ahead of the World Cup, and he said he would discuss this “personal conviction” with Halilhodzic upon the Bosnian’s return from holidays later this month.
Despite leading the team to Qatar via an unbeaten qualifying campaign, Halilhodzic has faced criticism in Morocco for some of his decisions.
Lekjaa added that the 69-year-old “is currently the trainer of the national team… but only God knows what the future holds”.
Morocco will face Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F in Qatar.