Manchester United are interested in Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee and have already made contact over a potential transfer. Key figures at Old Trafford have been impressed by his performances in Italy this season, prompting them to initiate talks with the Serie A side.
There are a couple of key terms in the player’s contract, first of all the £34m release clause that’s due to become active in the summer. Some of Zirkzee’s suitors, United included, may be inclined to bide their time on that basis, but they should be aware that former club Bayern Munich hold a 50% sell-on clause. In practice, that means Thomas Tuchel’s side could bring him back to Germany for a fee of just £17m should they wish. This, then, may not be a straightforward transfer, but United look to be in a strong position for the moment.
United move into “pole position” for Zirkzee
According to Sportitalia, Man Utd currently lead the race to sign Zirkzee. They’re said to be in “pole position” and could even make a move this month as Erik ten Hag looks to strengthen his attack. Bologna would demand £43m for a sale midway through the season as they eye a “staggering” profit on their initial £7.3m outlay, but there’s a possibility United “satisfy” that request.
Bayern don’t believe they need a new striker, but they could “bring him home” for the aforementioned fee and then look to sell him on again for a significant profit. Zirkzee’s other suitors, among them “many clubs” in Italy and United’s English rivals Arsenal, will be watching closely. There’s a feeling that the “financial resources” of the Premier League duo may prove too powerful if it comes down to a straight fight.
In anticipation of his likely exit, Bologna are already “one step away” from signing Santiago Castro, a 19-year-old striker currently based at Velez Sarsfield in Argentina.
Clinical Zirkzee outshining wasteful Hojlund
Zirkzee, who has eight goals and four assists in 23 appearances this season, has been described as a player with “extraordinary qualities” by manager Thiago Motta, and he’s out-scored incumbent striker Rasmus Hojlund by seven to two in league football. It’s worth taking a look at the underlying numbers to see what kind of impact the Dutchman could make at Old Trafford.
The first thing that stands out is that the two players are averaging a similar xG, suggesting they could score roughly once every four games. That’s a lower rate than you’d expect of an elite centre-forward, and speaks to United’s problems with chance creation, a challenge Zirkzee would have to face. Hojlund’s average of 1.61 shots per 90 once again highlights the limited supply.
The key difference is that the Bologna man is showing a certain ruthlessness in front of goal, while Hojlund is some way off where you’d expect him to be. Zirkzee is trying his luck from much further out than the Dane, but his current rate of over-performance should still be sustainable. So if he can strike a deal, Ten Hag will hope to reap the benefits of healthy competition at the head of the team, with the new man forcing Hojlund to up his game.