Hakim Ziyech’s start to life at Chelsea has been made “difficult” by the coronavirus regulations, according to Blues boss Frank Lampard.
Morocco forward Ziyech, 27, moved from Ajax to Stamford Bridge for a fee of £33.3million last summer, but suffered a knee injury during a pre-season friendly versus Brighton.
He made his long-awaited debut in last weekend’s 3-3 Premier League draw with Southampton and came off the bench during the 0-0 stalemate with Sevilla in the Champions League.
And Lampard believes Ziyech’s return to full fitness has been hampered by current COVID-19 guidelines which prevent the first team from training with the Under-23s.
“It’s been very difficult to integrate him,” said Lampard.
“We have a bubble here at Cobham so we can’t play against the Under-23s or bring over a lot of kids to replicate 11 vs 11 games on big-sized pitches, which is generally where you would want someone to be working when they’ve not played for five or six months off.
“We miss that and we have to find the right way to give Hakim and others in the squad minutes as quickly as we can.”
Although Ziyech spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines recovering from his injury, his hunger has already caught his manager’s attention.
Lampard added: “When I look at the squad I want to help grow the ideas of leaders and personalities within the group.
“Over the course of a long, difficult season there will be moments when you rely on them to help you in tough times, and to push the good times along.
“You can’t get on in any elite sport without people with personality and character in the team. I have seen that in Hakim and Edu Mendy as soon as they came through the door.
“Hakim has confidence about him, his fitness is coming individually, he still needs a bit of time to get his match fitness now his injury is cleared up, but both of those will be great additions on that front.
“I encourage personality and communication between the players, we need more of that.”