Man Utd muscle in on Arsenal transfer target already likened to Ronaldinho

Bologna forward Joshua Zirkzee
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Joshua Zirkzee has been likened to the legendary Ronaldinho by his former boss as Arsenal and Manchester United keep tabs on him.

The 23-year-old Dutch forward, who has caught the eye of several top European clubs this summer, including the Gunners, has reportedly been in discussions for a summer move to Old Trafford. Since his transfer to Serie A from Bayern Munich, Zirkzee has impressed many with his performances, and Thiago Motta, his ex-manager at Bologna, has now paid him the highest praise.

In an interview with Sky Sport Italia, Motta acknowledged that while Zirkzee looks up to football greats like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he personally sees shades of Ronaldinho in Zirkzee's style of play. Motta also emphasized his unique talent, stating that he is "special" and beyond comparison, as reported by the Manchester Evening News.

"He said that his idols are [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and [Gabriel] Batistuta, who are two excellent players, but, seeing him day to day, he reminds me of the Ronaldinho I played with at Barcelona," Motta said. "But I cannot compare him to anyone. He is just Joshua, and he is special."

Speaking to the Italian media, Motta shared his initial doubts about Zirkzee's place in the starting line-up. But he was quickly won over by the player's confidence and leadership qualities. The Juventus boss said: "I wasn't convinced about letting Zirkzee play as a starter: he was the first to bet on himself: today he is a leader."

Zirkzee, towering at 6ft 4in, notched up 11 goals in 34 appearances for Bologna last term, helping them secure a spot in the Champions League. His performance didn't go unnoticed, earning him a call-up to Ronald Koeman's Euro 2024 squad for the Netherlands after multiple players dropped out.

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Despite some voices suggesting that Zirkzee's goal tally could be higher, Motta isn't one of them. The ex-Brazilian maestro is convinced that Zirkzee's all-around game overshadows any perceived shortcomings in his goal-scoring prowess.

"There are forwards who think only about goals, but not Joshua. He has a big heart and that makes the difference," he said.

However, Football.London now understands that Arsenal's attentions may now have shifted from Zirkzee with Sporting Lisbon's Victor Gyokeres of interest to Mikel Arteta. Benjamin Sesko was reportedly another striker on Arsenal's list of striking targets before signing a new contract at RB Leipzig prior to the start of the European Championship.

Barcelona legend Ronaldinho
Thiago Motta sees shades of Barcelona legend Ronaldinho in Zirkzee -Credit:Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

It's yet to be seen if Motta's glowing endorsement will speed up United's pursuit of the Dutch talent with the race for the Bologna sensation now seemingly down to either them or AC Milan.

Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport has claimed the Red Devils are the only club who are willing to pay both the €40million clause and the €15m commission to secure his services.

However, Arsenal could have been urged to looks elsewhere after reports emerged that Zirkzee has suggested that his preference is to now stay with his current club, Bologna, and play Champions League football next season.