Zirkzee: ‘My mind is only on Bologna, I’ll choose what’s best for the club’


Bologna forward Joshua Zirkzee says he is focused only on the Rossoblu, and will choose his future based on what’s best for the club. The Dutch talent has attracted attention from around Serie A, as well as Europe’s elite teams, with Juventus, Inter, Napoli, Arsenal and a number of others interested in signing him.

Speaking with Il Corriere dello Bologna, the 23-year-old talked through his stellar season with Bologna, and what the future holds for him:

How do you feel after such an exceptional season?

“I couldn’t be happier. That’s all I can say: proud and happy.”

Bologna has experienced incredible moments this season. If you had to choose the best one, which would it be?

“There are so many, but if I have to choose, I’d say the week before Christmas when we beat Roma, Inter, and Atalanta. That was a crucial moment. After that week, we realized our potential and gained a lot of confidence. We started to believe we could achieve something significant. The best moment, however, was when we beat Napoli, and we understood our chances of reaching the Champions League were very high.”

You celebrated the qualification at Casteldebole.

“We were right there, in the room where we usually have meetings and interviews at the training center. We all watched as Atalanta beat Roma: the best moment of the season.”

When you chose to come to Bologna, did you ever think you could reach a milestone like the Champions League?

“I came here from Bayern Munich because I wanted to play. The league was of a high level, and I wanted to challenge myself. The club had a clear vision: to compete for a place in Europe. However, no one could have imagined that this season would turn out like this. The idea was to get into Europe step by step, not directly into the Champions League. At some point in the season, we said, ‘Who cares, let’s go for the Champions League. If we are going to qualify for Europe, let’s aim for the biggest prize.’ The club’s direction was always there, but honestly, no one expected to get there so quickly.”

After this season, you have a different status, even in the eyes of the rest of the football world. Have you earned the role of leader on the field?

“I am a better player, for sure. A season like this earns you a lot of points, even in terms of experience. I owe everything to my teammates; they are fantastic. The group comes first. If I’ve tried to become a leader, it’s thanks to Lollo De Silvestri. He came to me and said, ‘You have the ability to be a leader.’ I studied his behavior; he is the heart of the team. We have a young and hungry group, and everyone is a leader in their own way. We all took turns being captains, showing that when called upon to lead, we can do it. We are not individualists.”

Is that Bologna’s secret?

“Without a doubt. We are a big family. It was the essential ingredient to reach such a prestigious goal.”

Next year you’ll be playing in the Champions League. Do you think you can reach the level of the top players?

“I have to believe it, I must be convinced. As a player, I need to have confidence in my abilities and say, ‘Yes, I can reach that level.’ It wouldn’t make sense for me to think otherwise. In Italy, we already play against Champions League teams. We know the level because Serie A is of high quality and challenging. It will be a great and exciting challenge. I dreamed of playing in the Champions League since I was a child; I won it with Bayern Munich, but now it will be exciting to play it because with the German club, it felt like I wasn’t really there. Now, I’ll be on the field living the moment.”

You don’t sound like someone who wants to leave.

“At this moment, my mind is only on Bologna. I want to recover from my injury, have a great vacation in the States with my childhood friends, and then we’ll see what happens.”

But if you could choose?

“I would choose what’s best for the club. I’ll do only what makes sense for my heart.”

Wouldn’t it be different to play in the Champions League with Bologna, which you earned yourself, compared to another team?

“Exactly, that’s what I said, and I’ll repeat it. It would be amazing for me to defend this achievement we reached together. What we experienced in Piazza Maggiore was unforgettable.”

You said you feel like a better player: how much did Motta help you?

“A lot. When I came here from Anderlecht, I had a good season. The first season at Bologna, however, was not what I expected. So many changes, a new city, and Arnautovic ahead of me. I chose to return with a mission: to prove to myself and others that I was a good player, and also to the coach who didn’t play me much last year.”

Did you talk to Motta?

“I didn’t have a personal conversation with him. We don’t talk much, and when he did, it was mostly to keep me on my toes. When our European qualification was certain, he gave a speech to everyone: ‘Now we’re qualified, but what do you want to do?’ And I answered him: ‘We deserve to go to the Champions League.’ From that point on, we were focused. He didn’t want to put too much pressure on us but explained what we needed to do and which matches we had to win: at the Olimpico against Roma and in Naples.”

This season, you’ve only lost once against the top teams in the second half, against Inter.

“We played fantastically against the top teams. Besides Inter, we only stopped against Fiorentina and Milan, but that was the first game. Lazio, Atalanta, and Roma were beaten twice, really great.”

You score much more away than at Dall’Ara: 9 goals away and only 2 at home. Any explanation for that?

“First, for me, the goals are 12, not 11: they didn’t credit me with the one against Sassuolo, but it’s mine. I have no idea why it’s easier to score away. I asked my teammates too. After the win at the Olimpico against Roma, I said in the locker room: ‘See, I scored away again, like with Lazio, Fiorentina, Atalanta, Salernitana.'”

Was it easier to play away because the teams were less defensive?

“That’s the only explanation. When opponents came to Dall’Ara, the game became tough for them. They would defend, but I can’t criticize their approach. It was difficult for them to face us in high spirits, pressing well, and physically strong. As you journalists say, they parked the bus in front of the goal.”

Do you prefer playing in open spaces?

“Sure, it’s easier, but scoring isn’t that important. Actually, let me correct that. Scoring is important; I definitely want to do it and enjoy it. But in the end, especially when playing at home, winning is what matters most. I don’t say this randomly. I care about my numbers and scoring, but I’m not an individualist. I am part of a team, and that’s what counts.”

It was a great season, but what happened against Juventus? You weren’t on the field, but going from 3-0 to 3-3, how was that possible?

“Honestly, I can’t explain it. We were winning 3-0, and Ferguson and I decided to come down from the stands to the field. Since Lewis is recovering from a knee injury and walking slowly, leaning on me, by the time we got down, it was 3-3. We didn’t see any of Juve’s goals. We asked ourselves, ‘What happened?'”

You replaced the Dall’Ara speaker, shouting Calafiori’s name after the first goal. Then you said ‘thank you,’ but the stadium didn’t respond.

“It’s really funny, I know. I did it because in Germany, when a goal is scored, the speaker shouts ‘Danke,’ and the stadium replies ‘Bitte.’ But here, people didn’t know, so my ‘thank you’ just hung there. But it’s okay, it was still an emotional moment.”

In this fantastic season, the only personal regret is missing the Euros with the Netherlands.

“I am convinced that without the injury in March against Inter, I could have made it. I couldn’t respond to the call-up, and if I had, maybe the coach would have called me back, and today I wouldn’t be out of the Euros. It’s just a feeling; I don’t know for sure, but that’s football. I’ll have my opportunity.”

What do you think Bologna needs to improve next season?

“This season, the athletic level was always very high. We often changed players, but the mentality was always the same. I don’t think there need to be adjustments; the only thing to do is to repeat our performance. We know it won’t be easy, but we also know what we are capable of when we are together and focused. We knew that reaching the Champions League was difficult, but possible. We need to be ready, mentally sharp, and always believe, and the rest will come with time.”

Are you worried about facing players like Mbappé, Haaland, Vinicius, or Kane, or do you feel ready to challenge them?

“Imagine how great it would be to play against Real Madrid at Dall’Ara. The new Champions League format is nice; it gives more chances to qualify for the round of 16. It will be difficult for Bologna to progress, but if you don’t believe, why play? We deserve to be there, and when the match starts, we just need to do our best. If you don’t believe, it’s better to stay home.”

In the last games, your mother was often seen, both at Dall’Ara and away. Has she moved to Bologna?

“She spends some time here with me and some with my younger brother, Jordan. He’s 18 and plays for Bayer Leverkusen. My father once told me he named him after Michael Jordan. I’m not sure if he was joking, but I think that’s really how it went.”

A fantastic season for both of you…

“Yes, but mine was better; he’s still in the youth teams.”

What’s your end-of-season message to Bologna fans?

“I can only say thank you. The Champions League is a goal they deserved first for all the affection they have given us. We felt it inside and made it our own.”

What is the most touching moment from this spectacular season?

“Small things, but unforgettable. When I got home, kids would knock on my door and ask for a photo. Or after a match, finding fans waiting for me outside, writing something on my car, or when I ordered something from Amazon, and the delivery guy wrote ‘thanks for everything’ on the package. People did wonderful things for me.”

What do you want to say to Motta?

“Thank you, and I’ve already told him. He always gave us players the credit, but everything we achieved started with him.”


Serie A obsessive.