Inside Hakim Ziyechs AFCON snub as Chelsea star is left at home for tournament

Hakim Ziyech will not be present at this month's Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon after being left out of Morocco's 28-man squad for the tournament.

The Chelsea playmaker has not played for the Atlas Lions since a friendly against Burkina Faso in July last year following a falling out with head coach Vahid Halihodzic.

Halihodzic has accused Ziyech of feigning injury in order to avoid playing in a friendly against Ghana a month earlier and has omitted him from his plans ever since.

Ziyech has missed Morocco's last 10 matches as a result of his exodus from the squad.

After leaving the 28-year-old out of his squad for September's World Cup qualifiers, Halihodzic explained the decision, stating: “For the first time in my coaching career, I have seen behaviour that disappoints me.

“A player who refuses to play a game, admittedly a friendly, on the pretext that he is injured. The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play.

“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% there or you are not.”

Ziyech has won 40 caps for Morocco, scoring 17 goals in the process, since making his debut in 2015 and was part of their squad for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 AFCON.

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Halihodzic went on to add: “His behaviour in the last two matches, especially the last one, was not that of a national team player who as a leader in the team has to be a positive role model.

“He arrived late and after that, he even refused to work. There was no point in discussing it afterwards, as a coach the answer is right there to see.

“For me, the national team is above everything, nobody can hold it hostage.”

As a result, Ziyech was not included in Morocco's 28-man squad announced in December for the tournament, which does include three Premier League players.

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Watford duo Adam Masina and Imran Louza are both included alongside national team captain Romain Saiss.

Ziyech himself has captained Morocco on two occasions in the past, having initially represented the Netherlands at youth level.

In Ziyech's absence, PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi is the star name in the Morocco squad as they aim to avenge their round of 16 exit to Benin in 2019.

Had he been included, Ziyech would have missed at least four Chelsea matches even if Morocco were eliminated at the group stage.

Following his man of the match performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, Ziyech discussed the situation with beIN SPORTS.

“I’m doing my job and trying to perform as best as I can," explained the former Ajax midfielder.

“All the other stuff that’s going around outside of football, it is not really important at the moment. At this point I don’t really care to be honest.”

Morocco begin their AFCON campaign on Monday against Ghana before they face Comoros on January 14 and Gabon on January 18.

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