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Hakim Ziyech set for Chelsea move, confirms Ajax boss Ten Hag

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Erik ten Hag provided an update on Hakim Ziyech’s future amid links with Premier League giants Chelsea.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag confirmed Hakim Ziyech is set to join Chelsea at the end of the season, admitting he expected the star forward to leave “one or two years earlier”.

Reports on Wednesday emerged that Eredivisie champions Ajax and Premier League giants Chelsea reached a verbal agreement on a €45million (£38m) transfer for Ziyech.

Ziyech came off the bench during Wednesday’s 3-0 KNVB Beker victory at Vitesse and Ten Hag provided an update on the 26-year-old Morocco international.

“Ziyech to Chelsea? A transfer was coming, we expected it to happen,” Ten Hag told Fox Sports post-game.

“I actually already expected this one or two years earlier. And each time it was: ‘Wow, he stayed again’.

“We are just happy that we will still have him until the end of the season.”

 

Ziyech has been directly involved in 166 goals since his Eredivisie debut in 2012-13, contributing 79 goals and 87 assists.

Since joining Ajax from Twente in 2016, Ziyech has scored 38 league goals and 48 across all competitions.

Ziyech’s sensational tally of 51 Eredivisie assists from the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign is 16 better than the 35 of Steven Berghuis, the next highest during that period, while his 421 chances created since September 2016 is a whopping 134 more than his nearest rival.

Ten Hag added: “I am not surprised by the news about Ziyech. I know that our players are very popular with the big clubs in Europe. That is just great.

“I have known for a long time what Hakim wants. He has a picture in mind. He knows exactly which clubs he finds interesting and which ones are not.

“Chelsea are a fantastic club. When it is final, I am very happy for Hakim, and I am very proud of him.”

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Premier league

Chelsea confirm five-year deal for Hakim Ziyech

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Hakim Ziyech was described as “one of the most dangerous attacking players in Europe” after finalising a contract with Chelsea.

Chelsea have confirmed Hakim Ziyech has agreed a five-year contract and will join from Ajax at the end of the season.

Ajax announced last week that the 26-year-old would be moving to Frank Lampard’s side in a deal potentially worth €44million.

The forward, who will spend the rest of 2019-20 with the Eredivisie champions, told Chelsea’s official website: “I am delighted and proud to have signed for such a huge club as Chelsea. I am looking forward to next season and hope we can achieve great things together.”

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia made clear the club’s delight at signing a player who has taken the Champions League by storm in recent seasons.

“We are delighted Hakim will be joining us in the summer, having been a key target of the club’s in this last window,” she said.

“He has consistently been one of the most dangerous attacking players in Europe in recent years, which we saw first-hand in our two games against Ajax in the Champions League.

“We wish Hakim and Ajax all the best for the rest of the season and look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge in the summer.”

 

Ziyech joined Ajax from Twente in August 2016 and was a star performer as Erik ten Hag’s men reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and secured a domestic double last term.

The Morocco international is the first major signing confirmed by Chelsea since Lampard took over as head coach from Maurizio Sarri prior to the start of the season.

Deals to bring in Christian Pulisic and loanee Mateo Kovacic permanently had been agreed prior to Lampard taking charge, and the Blues were then forced to endure a one-window transfer ban after they were found guilty of breaching FIFA rules regarding the signing of minors from overseas.

Their initial two-window suspension was reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in December, however, allowing Chelsea to sign players in January, but they failed to secure any new arrivals.

Speaking at the start of this month, Lampard said his side had become “underdogs” in the battle to finish fourth in the Premier League because their rivals had strengthened their own squads.

 

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Premier league

Manchester United 3-0 Watford: Bruno Fernandes’ masterclass sends Red Devils fifth

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Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood fired Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal for Manchester United and created two more as the Red Devils extended their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions with a 3-0 Premier League victory over Watford.

The £62million January signing from Sporting CP put in a performance that made his fee look like a bargain, winning and scoring a first-half penalty to break the deadlock against a battling Watford team before creating superbly taken goals from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

United survived some nervous moments and Watford had an equaliser ruled out for handball before Martial doubled their advantage, but the invention and craft of Fernandes has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men an edge they lacked for so much of this season.

Defeat leaves Watford in the relegation zone and without a win in six matches in all competitions, but manager Nigel Pearson will take some comfort from a strong attacking performance that might have delivered a different outcome but for some poor finishing.

 

Troy Deeney might have put Watford ahead after three minutes when Nemanja Matic and Harry Maguire allowed Victor Lindelof’s blocked pass to run through to the Hornets captain, but he hesitated, and Luke Shaw dispossessed him just in time.

Abdoulaye Doucoure hit the side-netting from a tight angle as Watford continued to prise open a faltering United defence and, when the hosts countered, Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed from 12 yards after Ben Foster parried Dan James’ angled drive.

The pace of the game slowed before exploding into life five minutes before half-time when Fernandes burst into the Watford box where Ben Foster sent him sprawling, and the Portuguese midfielder’s hopping run-up and cool low finish put United ahead from the spot.

Watford had the ball in the net five minutes after the restart when Maguire lashed it into the roof of his own net under pressure from Deeney, but Craig Dawson playing the ball with his arm in the build-up meant the goal was ruled out.

Six minutes later, Fernandes turned provider, threading a pass through to Martial whose drag-back fooled Etienne Capoue before his immaculate chip saw him beat Foster at the second attempt.

United’s third was the pick of the goals, Greenwood starting a move that ended with Fernandes rolling the ball to him just inside the box and he cracked an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net off the frame of the goal.

Solskjaer sent on Odion Ighalo for his home United debut against his former club and he hit the post six minutes from time but by then the game was comfortably won as hopes of a possible Champions League return continued to grow around Old Trafford.

What does it mean?

One win in three home league matches hardly feels like great form but United are just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea, while Watford, who are 19th, remain one point adrift of safety and still without a league win at Old Trafford in their history.

Fernandes brings out United’s best

The arrival of Fernandes has given the likes of James and Greenwood a creative lynchpin and, after showing his finishing prowess, the 25-year-old brought the best out of Martial and Greenwood.

Deeney made to rue early miss

Sluggish and sloppy in the opening 20 minutes, Deeney eventually grew into the game but only after he had missed Watford’s best chance of the game.

What’s next?

Watford host champions elect Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday before United’s trip to Everton on Sunday. The Red Devils are in Europa League action against Club Brugge at Old Trafford three days earlier.

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Wolves 3-0 Norwich City: Five in two games for in-form Diogo Jota

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A Diogo Jota double and Raul Jimenez’s second-half goal gave Wolves all three points as Norwich City’s woes continued.

Diogo Jota capped an excellent week in front of goal with a double as Wolves boosted their Champions League aspirations with a 3-0 win over bottom club Norwich City.

Jota was on target with a hat-trick in Wolves’ 4-0 victory over Espanyol in the Europa League on Thursday.

The forward opened the scoring after 19 minutes at Molineux on Sunday, firing in a low finish on the turn after being teed up by Matt Doherty.

His second came 11 minutes later as he tapped in from Romain Saiss’ low cross.

Tim Krul produced heroics to turn Ruben Neves’ free-kick onto the bar before the interval but he could do nothing to prevent Raul Jimenez from making it 3-0 on the rebound after Jota had struck the post.

Wolves are eighth, two points behind Manchester United, who occupy fifth, which would be good enough for the Champions League following Manchester City’s two-season ban from European competition.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men gained ground on Tottenham and Sheffield United after both dropped points on Saturday, meaning they trail that pair by just a point. Norwich, meanwhile, are still seven points adrift of safety.

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