Bologna director Marco di Vaio confirmed that Joshua Zirkzee and Lewis Ferguson are not leaving the club in the winter transfer window. Di Vaio was speaking with TMW about his role as sporting director and explained the work that has gone into making the Rossoblu a successful side this season, including identifying talents like Zirkzee, Ferguson, Calafiori:
One happy insight is Zirkzee. There are those who would like him to be more prolific, have you given him any suggestions?
“We talk often, I was the one who went to talk to him last year when we wanted to get him. Sinisa was still with us, the idea of playing with two forwards and the 3-5-2. Then after a month Motta arrived and we switched to the 4-3-3, with Arnautovic he played less. At the beginning it was complicated for him, mentally it was not easy to compete with Arnautovic, but when Marko, left Joshua made the leap. From every point of view: determination, work, professionalism. He showed great spirit, like when he played at Anderlecht and we went to see him. One of the first pieces of advice I gave him was to take an important number, he took nine. You ask for solidity from strikers, Joshua is different but I like his attitude and he will get to score the necessary goals. Then in addition to those he already puts in lots of other stuff. And let’s remember that he was born in 2001, at his age I didn’t have certainties. They come with time, those. He is putting in all the physical and mental energy to do his best’.
Do we reassure the fans for January?
“We have absolutely no plans to sell him. Rumours are of little use, he must continue to work and play, to grow and give continuity by helping his teammates. When you start to become a point of reference you need help even in difficulties. Let’s go ahead, all together, and make the potential concrete and constant.
Did you take Calafiori as a central defender or left-back?
“We already wanted to take him the summer before (2022, ed.) but then he had knee problems and the difficulties he had at Genoa didn’t leave us calm. Then following Basel for Ndoye, so many times, we saw that he grew during the season. In the end he also played as a centre-back, both in the three and in the four. At the end of the market the opportunity arose and we took him precisely for the double role. Behind Lucumi and if desired also at left-back, his natural role. The injury to Lucumi accelerated everything, Riccardo was ready and performed well as a centre-back. He has this advantage and we are happy about it.
Can he play in Spalletti’s Italy?
“It depends on him. There aren’t so many centre-backs at the moment, he has to grow because he only has seven to eight games in that role but if he continues like this…’.
Your market smells of Europe, you have made many signings from the Conference League.
“We go everywhere, Giovanni (Sartori, ed.) tries to cover as many games as possible, especially on the international stage where you also find answers on a character level and you play different types of games. A response in Europe tells you more, it’s a cup we are happy to follow’.
One of these players, a cover purchase, is Karlsson. Were there any other Italian teams? Why is he experiencing these current difficulties?
“There was a lot of interest, for years. With AZ he had confirmed numbers in Europe and a player like that generates interest. He needs to adapt to the league and to the coach’s idea, but he will find the answers on his path because he is an applied boy. He wants to grow and learn, with his head wide open and take the next step. We talked about that when he was supposed to come here, he knew he had a lot of competition on the flanks, for our will and the coach’s, and that despite the money spent he would find important competition. Let’s give him time, now unfortunately he’s injured but he wants to emerge’.
But couldn’t he perhaps become a centre forward?
“No, it’s difficult, I don’t see certain mental characteristics. Now he needs to play in his place, that of external striker on the left. To get into the mechanisms he needs certainties. Then maybe he can think of Mertens, who has proved us all wrong, but at the most I see him as a 10, under forward.”
Orsolini is now your leader.
“He scores beautiful goals, he has a sense of goal and every year he brings home numbers. I have seen him grow a lot since signing his new contract, as if in his head he had assumed a different position in the group. He is growing a lot under Motta’s guidance: he can finalise well, in the building phase he can do better, especially to take the next step and go to a top club. For that he should combine the two phases with intensity, this year he was giving signs. It’s a shame he got injured, but that’s football.
He did, however, send signs of love towards Bologna. Can you imagine him with you for a long time?
“For us and our public he is already a symbol, he is a reference for the people. A positive and cheerful guy, in a group he brings a lot and is recognised. We are very happy that he will continue with us.”
Ferguson, Posch, Lucumi: do you fear losing anyone in January?
“Ferguson is not moving and we all agree on that. He, like Posch, are too important for us. But actually the strength of this team is to have so many players of almost equal level, we want to keep the level high both from the start and in the game. Posch was a big surprise last year, I don’t believe the statements that are reported from national teams, they always end up being misrepresented. He was happy to stay with us when we signed him, he knows he has to confirm and that’s not easy. We are talking about an international player and we are happy he is here, he is part of our DNA, one of those scouted and paid little for the potential they have. He is responding, he is a serene and professional guy, he loves this club and we need him to grow’.
Are any calls coming in?
“No, our phones are off (laughs, ed.)’.
Which Bologna should we expect in the January market?
“We are ready, if we understand that there are opportunities that will improve the team we will think about it. To date the group tells us that it is homogeneous and has a percentage of growth, we will see what the market will offer us. We have some ideas, but we will discuss them later with the coach. We are preparing for January, further evaluations will come from the field between now and January, if anything.
Is one of those ideas Wlodarczyk?
“Names are never mentioned…’.
Closing on Juventus-Inter: will they be the ones to fight for the Scudetto?
“Inter have great potential. Last year they had an incredible year, showing beautiful football under the guidance of Inzaghi. I remember the one before that, the Scudetto lost right here… But it’s a path that is consecrating them, they have an interesting team made up of great players. Juve represents well the thought that the important thing is to win, the coach embodies it. The team has a character base that can make them fight until the end to win the championship. Theirs is a clear path, in the interpretation of their respective and different beliefs. Juve without cups will perhaps be able to conserve some energy… Sunday I think it will be a good game.