Jesper Karlsson: “Bologna for Europe – I’m back for that. Zirkzee has a bit of Ibra”


Bologna attacking midfielder Jesper Karlsson says he sees a bit of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in teammate Joshua Zirkzee. The Swedish international has missed over two months of the season due to a knee injury, and speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, he explained why he’s ready to help the Rossoblu in their push for European football next season:

One round later, some are considering you as a January ‘acquisition’… 

“Lollo (De Silvestri) also told me this in recent days: in these weeks, I’ve thought a lot about when the moment of my return will come, helping the team, winning the first game of 2024. In Bologna, I’ve seen a deep and strong football culture. And passion. I hope to become an additional asset from now until the end of the season, yes. I want to play beautiful football for Bologna, feel strong, and ready to bring my qualities to the team. I’m happy to be back. My style of play is creativity. That can create problems, ‘damages’ (injuries) for opponents. The number 10 shirt? I chose it because Roberto Baggio also wore it here: wearing it is responsibility, pride, respect.”

Your first home game was against Cagliari: after a few minutes, a powerful shot hit the crossbar. So, if it had been a goal, would everything have changed?

“Well, certainly, it would have helped, facilitated things, even in acclimatization. But these days I’ve thought that there’s time; it will happen again, and maybe it will be a goal. After two months, I can’t wait to play, to show myself, to have fun playing good football and return to the levels seen this season.”

Levels for Europe: is the word a dream, goal, or… not to say?

“Goals, dreams, and possibility. In Bologna, you can see the spirit of everyone, and we play beautiful football.”

Sartori said you play the best football in Italy.

“I don’t know about the best football, but from that point of view, we are at a high level, very high. Among the top. We know what to do, always.”

Thanks to Motta.

“He is clear, knows what he wants on the field, and communicates it well. When he teaches, he knows what he’s talking about.”

Is it tough to adapt to Serie A?

“Playing in Serie A is also a challenge. Not just technically but mentally because the technical part of Italian football has never scared me. I have always felt like someone who wants to compete. Motta teaches me the mechanisms, when to defend or support, everything that is part of team movements. In my life, I’ve also played as a second striker, but the best area for me is starting from the left, looking for the goal.”

What was little Jesper like?

“A true rebel. Have I always been a footballer? No, from 6-7 years old until 12, I played hockey. Hockey was fun. But then I chose football because I was better at it.”

When Thiago put you on the bench for five consecutive games, what did you think?

“This is football…”

The DS Di Vaio said that you won’t move in January: is that right?

“Never thought of leaving. My focus is here, where I want to improve, grow, and win.”

You were paid about 12 million: is that a ‘heavy’ thought?

“No, it has never been heavy. My only goal is to return and give my best to Bologna. Always.”

Today, you will see Ibrahimovic as a manager…

“He and I played together in the National Team; I know him well. When I was little, I looked at Brazilians as models, from Ronaldinho to Robinho or Neymar in recent years. But Zlatan is a legend, an inspiration. Unique.”

Does Zirkzee have something of Zlatan?

“Something is there, yes. The physicality or the ability to transform difficult situations into simple ones. It is certainly beautiful to watch him play…”

Do you know that many Fantasy Football enthusiasts are waiting for your return?

“Everyone talks about Fantasy Football (smiles)! I know. And I can’t wait, just like them.”


Serie A obsessive.