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Why does Ziyech not play for Morocco? Chelsea star’s international retirement explained

14:59 GMT+3 21/02/2022
Hakim Ziyech Morocco 2018
GOAL looks at the reasons for the Blues star's international exile and the possibility of a comeback

Hakim Ziyech's retirement from international football was effective from 2021 and, at the age of 28 it was confirmed that he will no longer represent Morocco.

It was certainly a blow for The Atlas Lions to lose the services of a Champions League-winning winger who has shone for both Ajax and Chelsea, but they have already begun to adapt to his absence.

It is an unusual move for a footballer to bring the curtain down on their international career, particularly when they are still in their prime years, so why exactly has Ziyech done so and is there a chance the decision could be reversed? GOAL has the details.

Why does Hakim Ziyech not play for Morocco?

Ziyech retired from international duty following a dispute with Morocco head coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who criticised the winger's attitude and accused him of feigning injury.

Halilhodzic left Ziyech out of a squad in September 2021 and explained his decision to omit the Chelsea star, saying that the player had arrived late and then "refused to work".

Halilhodzic also accused Ziyech of refusing to play "on the pretext that he [was] injured".

"The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play," said the Morocco boss. "He then refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute. For me, that type of behaviour is unacceptable. You can't cheat with the national team. You are 100 per cent there or you are not."

Ziyech was later left out of the Morocco squad for Afcon 2021 and Halilhodzic subsequently doubled down on his decision to omit the player, saying: "I don't select a player who can unbalance the group. Not even if his name is Lionel Messi."

How many caps did Hakim Ziyech get for Morocco?

Debut

Caps

Goals

Oct 9, 2015

40

17

Ziyech earned a total of 40 caps for Morocco, scoring 17 goals. He made his debut in 2015 and featured at the 2018 World Cup as well as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. His last game for Morocco was against Burkina Faso on June 12, 2021.

Born in the Netherlands, Ziyech initially represented the Dutch national team at youth level, playing for their Under-19 and Under-21 teams. However, despite being born in the Flevoland town of Dronten, Ziyech was also a Moroccan national and chose to represent the north African country at senior level.

A number of other Moroccan players have followed a similar path to Ziyech, with Medhi Benatia representing France at youth level and Munir El Haddadi playing for Spain before switching allegiance.

Could Hakim Ziyech play for Morocco again?

It does not look likely that Ziyech will play for Morocco again, at least not while Halilhodzic is the head coach.

The winger gave no indication that he was keen to reverse the situation when asked about it in February 2022, telling ADSportsTV: "I will not return to the Moroccan national team and this is my final decision."

He added: "At the end of the day, it's a decision [Halilhodzic] makes and you have to respect it. All the lying that comes with it, it's, for me, clear and I will not return to the national team.

"I understand and feel sorry for [the fans], but that's the situation we're in."

Halilhodzic has been manager of Morocco since 2019 and with no prospect of reconciliation between the pair any time soon, Ziyech will probably have to wait until a new coach takes the reins.

As such, it remains possible for Ziyech to play for Morocco again and the country's football fans can take heart from high-profile examples such as Karim Benzema and Roy Keane, both of whom retired early from international football only to return at a later date.