The Morocco international initially turned pro with Heerenveen having been recruited from hometown club, ASV Dronten, where he was born and raised. At Heerenveen, Ziyech was coached by De Jonge, who recalled a "fragile" but also aggressive young player.
De Jonge, now a coach with De Treffers, told France Football via Voetbalzone: "When I first saw him, he must have been about fourteen. He had just entered the youth academy and he looked very fragile. But he already had his creativity back then, so you knew he had a lot of potential. The fact that he was small and fragile could have become a problem, but he was fortunate that not so much value was attached to it in our training."
Indeed, De Jonge admits with a focus on working with the ball and developing his skills, Ziyech thrived in Heerenveen's academy environment. Despite some discipline issues, Ziyech was always fully supported by the coaching staff.
De Jonge continued: "There were some behavioral problems. But otherwise he had everything. In the end, it is often those boys, who may be more difficult to control, who have something extra as a footballer. I don't know how I can explain that, but often it is so. Moreover, we had not the ability to push talents into the background and replace them with new players.
"But let's be clear: he was by no means unmanageable. He was a prankster. We once played near a farm, and Hakim thought it would be a good idea to steal a chicken there and let it go in the dressing room. When I realised what was going on, I had to make clear to him that it might not be the best idea."
With the Eredivisie now abandoned, Ziyech is preparing to join Chelsea - which he will be eligible to do from July 1. The original transfer between Ajax and Chelsea was settled after the closure of the January transfer window on February 14 of this year.
- updated May 11