Hakim Ziyech admits Tottenham “stole” his dream with their crushing late victory over Ajax in the Champions League last year. But the winger, 27, is now hardened by the experience and determined to leave his mark at Chelsea after regaining his fitness.
The first arrival this summer for £36 million in what has since been a lavish outlay from the Blues, the Moroccan boasts a fierce mentality to compliment his desire for “trophies and beautiful football”.
“Yes, for a child’s dream, you just stole it down to the ground,” Ziyech concedes when asked to recall the semi-final loss to Chelsea’s London rivals.
“It is hard, it is painful. It is crazy what happened at that time and at that point [of the game]. It is hard to accept.
“For me personally I think we deserved to go to the final [in Madrid], but in the end you don’t always get what you deserve.
“So yes, you have to take that as a lesson and I did. Now I know always that the game is not over until after the referee whistles. At that point, it helped me. It helped me improve, to never give up.”
The youngest of nine children, Ziyech was forced to endure heartache aged 10 when his father passed away.
While the verve and arrogance to his game can be traced back to the streets of Dutch town Dronten, where he was forced to toughen up to allow his skill to shine through.
“Yeah, things that happened in the past when I was younger, all this stuff when you’re playing on the streets, it makes you hard as a person,” Ziyech acknowledges. “Especially when you get older you can play that hard as well.
“When I was young and playing on the streets I always played against older guys and they didn’t back down, even when you were too good for them they were just kicking and those types of things make you hard as a person.
“It helps you to grow, even on the pitch, and from that mentality it only helps you. I think I learned a lot from my past, it’s made me become what I am now at this moment.”
Many have become familiar with Ziyech dancing in from the right wing and opening up opponent’s with his wand-like left boot.
But Ziyech still maintains an affinity with the hallowed No 10 role that is treasured back in the Netherlands, where he was born, and at former club Ajax, where Johan Cruyff mastered the position.
“I still do [consider myself as a No 10],” Ziyech admits. “Even though I didn’t play there a lot in the last two years.
“But I know for myself what I’m capable of, even if it’s the No 10, or the left side, or the right side – it doesn’t change for me a lot. The way of the game is the same for me.”