Former Feyenoord director discusses Milan links and Ibrahimovic comparisons: “Zirkzee can reach a top level”

By Ben Dixon -

Recruiting a striker is a difficult process, especially at an elite level, but AC Milan have had their first choice in mind for some time – Joshua Zirkzee. To gain a deeper insight into the Dutchman’s rise, Damien Hertog spoke about his time working with the player. 

Although there are issues between Milan and the agent of Zirkzee, Kia Joorabchian, their interest remains strong, and they are still the favourites to sign the striker in the upcoming mercato.

The issue of note is due to the commission, and whilst the Rossoneri are prepared to activate the release clause of the Bologna striker, the demanded commission fee is why a halt has been caused.

Should the Diavolo get over the issues with his agent, it is imaginable that the rest of the process should be plain sailing. However, other options are still being considered by the management.

Ahead of the window’s opening, La Gazzetta dello Sport spoke to Hertog – the former Feyenoord director who discovered the talent of a young Zirkzee – about Zirkzee’s rise in recent years whilst also drawing comparisons between the Dutchman and Ibrahimovic.

Initial assessment of Zirkzee…

“When I saw him [Zirkzee] for the first time he played against us with the Under 15s of Ado Den Haag. What struck me? He was very, very tall. He was already sure of himself, but at the same time very humble”.

The call to Zirkzee’s parents…

“We invited them over for a chat. Then came everything else. He was 16 and we have to take that into account, but I met a boy in love with football and beauty. Calm, friendly, always respectful and helpful to everyone.”

Ibrahimovic comparison…

“I’m sure he was part of one of the most talented groups in the club’s Academy. A dominant team, who enjoyed ball possession and players with technique and creativity. Nice combinations, heel strikes, bicycles. The great thing is that those guys managed to put together spectacle and concreteness, winning every week.”

“His [Zirkzee’s] qualities then reminded me of those of Ibrahimovic, I thought so on several occasions. And I think that, in flashes, he still resembles him a lot. To reach such a level he will have to become the best version of himself and grow day after day. With consistency and determination.”

The move to Bayern Munich…

“I told him to take charge of his path with responsibility and always raise the bar, challenging himself day after day. That’s the key. It’s a different process for every kid, it can be approached in different ways.”

“Milan follows him, they’re a top club and in the past, they’ve had great players Dutch players, like Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard, but also Seedorf and Van Bommel. I hope that Joshua can be next, he is ready for such an important club.”

Having defined horizons…

“He’s someone the fans like. He can reach a top level and score 20-25 goals in the championship, but he needs a coach who understands him and gives him space like Thiago Motta did at Bologna.

“He would also find Ibrahimovic who could give him some advice on how to be a centre forward [he laughs]. I do not doubt that Joshua can be a key player in a top-level team in Europe, however, whoever signs him must think of him as a starter and give him confidence, putting it at the centre of the project.”

Tags AC Milan Joshua Zirkzee
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