Jesper Gronkjaer is backing Hakim Ziyech to succeed after his £37 million ($43m) move from Ajax to Chelsea.
The Blues completed a deal in late February and the 27-year-old is set to link up with his new team-mates on July 1, with the Eredivisie season cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Ziyech will join a group including Filipe Luis, Bertrand Traore, Mario Melchiot, Winston Bogarde and Gronkjaer himself in making the switch to Stamford Bridge having played at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Moving to the Premier League will prove a step up for Ziyech and Gronkjaer believes he is the star player from the Dutch side’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018.
“Ziyech was the one who has caught my eye over the past two seasons even though he wasn’t produced by Ajax’s academy,” Gronkjaer told Goal. “You need players like that. I think all the top clubs will have looked at Ziyech and asked the question if he is good enough for our team.
“He is a fantastic player but I think for Chelsea he will be in the starting XI straight away.
“Almost all the clubs in the Premier League could afford someone like Ziyech. Newcastle will be right up there competing in the market again. It is a good signing and he will start a lot.
“Also, we still have yet to see the true potential of Christian Pulisic as well because he is going to be a great player as well. So those are things to look forward to at Chelsea.”
Gronkjaer enjoyed two full seasons in Amsterdam before moving to Chelsea for £7.8m ($10m) in October 2000 and went on to score perhaps the most important goal in Chelsea’s history, against Liverpool on the final day of the season in 2003, just before Roman Abramovich bought the club. He believes Ziyech will be under pressure to perform from the beginning.
“Adapting to the Premier League is more of a mental challenge than anything else,” he said. “When you play for Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV then you are in teams that dominate possession, create chances and score lots of goals all the time.
“There’s a lot more space too. Now, in the Premier League, the learning curve isn’t there and you have to produce from day one. It is more physical and faster but now compared to my day, it is more technical. You have lots of skilful players and every team have great technicians which makes it easier.”
Frank Lampard made an £11m ($14m) move from West Ham six months after Gronkjaer signed, and during this period, a young Jody Morris was also breaking through the academy.
Lampard went on to employ Morris as his assistant head coach after being appointed Chelsea manager and Gronkjaer is impressed with their work, as he was when playing alongside the duo.
“Both of them looked like leaders even as boys,” Gronkjaer added. “When Lampard came in, it was something else. He had already done well at West Ham and came in for £11m. He walked straight in the team but he was not our star player to begin with.
“Quite quickly though after a year or so, we started to see him develop fast and he was always running box to box with great energy. His long-range shooting was special. He was a very sensible and clever guy.
“It has been a good story with Chelsea this season through all the young players and a new manager. I think they have done well. If you compare to what you expected at the start of the season, they have done well with a new manager and with the transfer ban.
“They brought back players who I think probably a lot of supporters knew by name – Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori. You might not have found too many supporters who were saying these will be good players right away.
“Now, they are in a position fighting for a Champions League spot with lots of ups and downs.
They have had problems scoring goals, problems at home, but overall they are doing well. I didn’t expect them to do so well with these players being so crucial for the team. I think most would say that they have done well.”
Gronkjaer is now a pundit on TV3 Sport in Denmark and casts his eye over Chelsea’s Premier League and Champions League games.
Andreas Christensen is the latest player from his country to make it at Stamford Bridge and Gronkjaer thinks he will be able to take his game to the next level in the coming seasons.
“As a Dane, we all look at Andreas Christensen,” he said. “It was a bit hard for him last season and this season has been up and down. Before the break, it looked like he was the first choice to play in defence and you would not expect it at the beginning of the season.
“I am quite a big fan of Billy Gilmour, the young Scottish player who has just come in. He looks a bit like Jody Morris actually! Not by his image but in the style of play. I think Reece James can really help the club. Abraham and Mount have done the most so far and deserve their fame.”