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Man United can sign a player ‘much more technical’ than Zlatan Ibrahimovic for £34m

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There are not many centre-forwards over the last 20 years who can maybe be considered to be ‘much more technical’ than former Manchester United talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

But that is the claim now being made about a striker who, over the course of this week, appears to have become increasingly likely to end the summer as a Red Devil.

Manchester United‘s pursuit of attacking additions reportedly resulted in a three-man shortlist being drawn up earlier this month. Ivan Toney of Brentford, Jonathan David of Lille, and Joshua Zirkzee of Bologna.

It is the latter, meanwhile, who has stolen a march on Toney and David to become Man United’s chosen Rasmus Hojlund alternative. The Telegraph reports that United are preparing to trigger the £34 million release clause in his contract with a proposed move to AC Milan stalling.

Joshua Zirkzee of Bologna FC celebrates victory at full-time following the Serie A TIM match between Bologna FC and Atalanta BC at Stadio Renato Da...

Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Manchester United want £34m Joshua Zirkzee

It’s been quite the rise for Zirkzee. Just three years ago, he did not score a single goal during a loan spell at Parma which ended in relegation.

And while his former Parma team-mate Simeone Iacoponi had no doubt about Zirkzee’s potential – it is he who makes those Ibrahimovic claims – he’s certainly been taken aback by the sheer pace of the Dutchman’s emergence as one of the most coveted young forwards on the market.

“When he came to us, it was a special moment,” says Iacoponi, speaking to Milan News. “It was his first experience in the Italian league and initially he had some more difficulties. But it was evident that he had important qualities.

“Technically and physically, he was a player of the highest level. At Bologna, he found his dimension, more than anything thanks to the trust of the team and the coach. The qualities that were seen in Parma came to the fore.

“Honestly no, I didn’t think he would become a (player wanted by clubs) of this level. Or, at least, not at this speed. But the numbers are on his side. He has made important plays and physically he is a well-trained player who can still improve in his game choices.

“He can already be important for a great team.”

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Those casting doubt on Zirkzee’s numbers – just 12 goals in all competitions last season under Thiago Motta – are missing the point somewhat. The former Bayern Munich youngster is one of those strikers who brings far more out of those around him. See Roberto Firmino alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah at Liverpool.

Man United will be hoping that, with Zirkzee dropping deep and opening up spaces, Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho will start to put up numbers reminiscent of Salah and Mane in their Anfield pomp.

“What strikes me about him? His personality. He is a player who is convinced of what he can do,” adds Iacoponi. “And it’s a winning weapon.

“The comparison with Ibrahimovic? The comparison can be made due to their size and their movements, but Joshua is much more technical than Ibra who was stronger.”

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, is not the only former Man United frontman Zirkzee has been compared to.

“He has developed, also in his mentality,” Kees van Wonderen, Zirkzee’s former Dutch youth coach, tells Rondo on Ziggo Sport. “The hard work, investing and playing a part in the defensive tasks of your team, he used to have much less of that. He didn’t think that was important.

“(Zirkzee) lived for scoring goals. He, of course, has very important qualities in the final third. Scoring goals is his quality.”

“I just made the comparison with Van Persie,” adds Van Wonderen, who has since been replaced in the Heerenven dugout by the man who fired Man United to the Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season.

“When you saw (Van Persie) at Arsenal, (he had) a completely different way of looking at things.”

  • READ MORE: Manchester United confirmed signings, transfers in, out, loan exits, releases for 2024/25

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