Zakaria Labyad is hopeful that in his third season at Ajax he can finally grow into a regular basic player. The 27-year-old midfielder made a hat-trick on Thursday-evening in the practice match in the Johan Cruijff ArenA against FC Utrecht (5-1), on the unusual position of striker for him.
“Whether this was the best half of my career? Yes, I think so,” said Labyad, who only played the first half against his old club. “At least in terms of return. I had never scored three goals and two of them were pretty good.”
After a ticker in the initial phase (1-0), Labyad scored twice (4-0 and 5-0) with a beautiful free kick. “I liked the second free kick better, but the first was more difficult. It’s nice to make three anyway. As a striker, scoring is also a task.”
It was quite surprising that Labyad was allowed to start in the rush hour against Utrecht, although Dusan Tadic and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were injured. According to trainer Erik ten Hag, those injuries had nothing to do with the fact that Labyad was in the forefront.
“I have put him in the forefront more often,” said Ten Hag, who also coached Labyad at FC Utrecht. “I know he can manage well there. And he has now also shown that at Ajax.”
“Zakaria played excellently and intelligently. He was the driving force in putting pressure and played the ball very well together with Quincy Promes. Those two have a click.”
Zakaria Labyad scored twice from a free kick. (Photo: Pro Shots)
‘We are both pedigree footballers’
Labyad agreed that the cooperation with Promes, who played at ‘ten’ against Utrecht, went well. “We are both pedigree footballers, we feel each other”, said Labyad, who is still under contract in the ArenA until mid-2022 and wants to finally find his way to the top next season.
In his first season with Ajax, he got little playing time and when he got the chance last year, he was injured in the Champions League group match with Lille and then was sidelined for months.
“The corona stop was extra long for me because of that. After nine months I am finally back on the field, and with great pleasure. I am working very hard to grab my chance this season. I want to become the basic player of Ajax.”