Joshua Zirkzee: The Rising Star Courted by Man Utd and AC Milan

Joshua Zirkzee: The Rising Star Courted by Man Utd and AC Milan

Joshua Zirkzee has become a standout player at Bologna, attracting interest from heavyweight clubs like Manchester United and AC Milan. His distinct blend of size, skill, and speed makes him a sought-after forward. Standing at 6’4″, Zirkzee combines the physical presence of a target man with the agility of a playmaker and the speed necessary for breaking away from defenders. His unique attributes have caught the attention of top clubs looking to bolster their lineups.

At just 23 years old, Zirkzee’s recent performances have propelled Bologna into Europe’s top competitions for the first time in six decades, earning him a spot in Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands squad for Euro 2024. His impressive stats—ranking in Serie A’s top 10 for goals, created chances, and successful dribbles from open play—underscore his comprehensive threat on the field.

Zirkzee’s Evolution: From Prodigy to Pro at Bayern and Anderlecht

This narrative transcends mere statistics to explore the untapped potential of a player unique in today’s market. Having made significant strides recently, Zirkzee has long been recognized for his exceptional capabilities that set him apart from his peers.

Zirkzee embarked on his journey with Bayern Munich at just 16, marking his arrival by scoring against Paris Saint-Germain at 17. Although he netted four Bundesliga goals, breaking into the main squad as a teenager proved challenging. This period was not only a physical leap but a psychological one as well.

Willem Weijs, previously part of the coaching staff at Anderlecht where Zirkzee spent the 2021/22 season on loan, noted, “He went at a very young age and that can sometimes be a problem for players. They think it’s all about skills and scoring goals, but professional football demands more.” This tenure at Anderlecht saw the young talent mature, transitioning from a boy wonder to a seasoned professional.

Zirkzee’s Breakthrough Under Kompany’s Guidance

“Professional football demands a lot more mentally and physically compared to youth football,” Weijs notes. “His talent was evident, but transitioning was necessary. His time at Anderlecht was greatly beneficial.”

Under the guidance of Vincent Kompany, Zirkzee excelled, scoring 18 goals and delivering 13 assists. Weijs describes this phase as a volcano on the verge of eruption. “Initially, it was challenging due to the physical style of play in Belgium. However, he eventually adapted and truly came into his own.”

Building Trust and Mentorship at Anderlecht

Weijs played a crucial role in mentoring Kompany’s team at Anderlecht, where each technical staff member guided a small group of players. Zirkzee, being Dutch, naturally aligned with Weijs. However, building a trustful relationship was challenging as Zirkzee was initially reserved. Weijs emphasized the importance of respect and emotional investment, which eventually led to Zirkzee opening up. Their discussions spanned various topics, including basketball, and delved deep into aspects of Zirkzee’s playing style and career ambitions. Weijs admired Zirkzee’s technical prowess in confined spaces, his exceptional ball control, and his ability to maneuver in complex situations, attributing these skills to his success on the field.

Zirkzee’s Rise: From Anderlecht Prodigy to Bologna’s Key Player

Once likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his towering presence, skill, and flair, Zirkzee has made significant strides in his football career. His proficiency in lay-off passes, ranking third in Serie A last season, underscores his effective hold-up play. At Anderlecht, his finishing skills impressed his teammates during training sessions.

“By the end, he was outstanding,” remarks Weijs.

In the latter part of his tenure in Belgium, it became evident that Zirkzee had maximized his learning from the experience. “Training at Anderlecht became too easy for him. It was clear he was ready for more,” Weijs adds.

Zirkzee’s subsequent move to Bologna marked a return to Serie A, following an earlier, less fruitful loan at Parma. Despite initial doubts about this transition, Zirkzee thrived, becoming a vital element of one of the most thrilling teams in European football this season. Thiago Motta, his coach at Bologna, has been pivotal, enhancing Zirkzee’s skills to new heights and seeing him as more reminiscent of Ronaldinho than Ibrahimovic.

Zirkzee’s Defensive Mastery in Serie A

Zirkzee has notably enhanced his performance off the ball, establishing himself as a dominant force in games even when not in possession. As a key player in a high-pressing squad, he led Serie A in high turnovers this past season and was also ranked second for winning possession in the final third.

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About the Author

Born in Liverpool in 1984, Ian Fletcher, a distinguished betting expert, attained a Master’s in Sports Analytics from the University of Manchester in 2010. Between 2011 and 2019, he was engaged with various English football clubs, focusing on tactical analysis and player performance metrics. Fletcher has contributed to 12 academic papers, emphasizing the role of game tempo and set-piece efficiency. In 2020, he transitioned into the realm of journalism. Presently, Fletcher authors in-depth analytical pieces on football, exploring game dynamics and team strategies, and his expertise is sought after by numerous sports platforms.

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