Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr was among the 30,150 spectators that witnessed the Bundesliga clash between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich at the PreZero Arena sometime in February. His mission was to persuade German-born Nigerian teenage sensation, Joshua Zirkzee, to look at the direction of Nigeria as against the Netherlands-the country of his birth. With the Bayern Munich striker’s recent revelation that his dream is to play for the Netherlands, Nigeria may have been dealt a deadly blow
When Bayern Munich teenage sensation Joshua Zirkzee went the distance on his full German Bundesliga debut, Rohr was definitely impressed by what he saw of Nigerian eligible, most especially when Bayern Munich number 35 scored just 15 minutes into his debut.
Although he was born in a European country, the teenage sensation is eligible to turn out for the Super Eagles on the international scene, but Nigeria has been dealt a blow in their chase for Zirkzee with the Bayern Munich striker revealing his dream to play for the Netherlands.
Zirkzee born to Nigeria parents in the Netherlands attracted interest from the three-time African champions after finding his way into Bayern Munich’s first-team this season.
Despite playing for the Dutch youth teams, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Super Eagles coach have reportedly approached the Bayern Munich forward over his international future.
Following the postponement of the European Championship to 2021, Zirkzee now fancies his chances of playing for the Dutch national team.
When asked about playing for the Netherlands in the competition, he told VTBL; “No, I’m not really working on that yet. I’m not a regular based player here, so I don’t think I should think about it then, but I have also seen how fast things can go, so of course, it is very secretly in the back of your mind.
“Oranje is a dream and as a young footballer I think it makes sense to dream about it.”
The 18-year-old made his Bayern Munich debut in a Champions League match against Tottenham back in December, and he has scored three goals in five Bundesliga outings since then.
He is hoping to cap his maiden campaign in the first-team with silverware.
“Certainly, that is the first step,” he added.
“But we also really want to win the Champions League, the whole club longs for that. Even though we first have to see how it will all end. We all hope that we can go again soon, to start.”
Zirkzee, scorer of three goals in four Bundesliga games this season, led the Bavarians’ attack in the absence of the club’s leading scorer Robert Lewandowski.
Giving reasons for selecting 18-year-old Zirkzee ahead of Lewandowski against Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick said: “Things worked really well in the Chelsea game, (in the Champions League) so I wanted to change things as little as possible in the team,” Flick was quoted as saying.
“By doing that, the understanding between the players and automations are still there. Joshua’s trained well, and he’s showed in training that he’s got good quality and is a good finisher.
“He can hold the ball up well and has the physicality to do so, which is important when things are tight up top. So that was our thinking, to make a like-for-like replacement for Lewandowski. It was good.”
Meanwhile, Netherlands legend Willem van Hanegem is convinced that the Bayern Munich super kid deserves to be promoted to the Dutch senior squad and has urged Dutch coach Ronald Koeman to invite the striker for the upcoming international friendlies against United States and Spain.
“I hope that Ronald Koeman will really summon that boy for the upcoming international matches against the United States and Spain, (which was called off as result of Coronavirus pandemic)”
“I saw at Bayern how Thomas Müller gets to work with him. He plays with Zirkzee, makes him really grow. Zirkzee is only 18, but already deserves a chance at the Oranje. I think it will be soon with him.”
The 18-year-old Zirkzee became provisionally cap-tied to the Netherlands when he made an appearance off the bench in a European U-17 Championship qualifier against Hungary in October 2017, and has also been capped at U-15, U-16, U-18 and U-19 levels.
Without Lewandowski, there were concerns that Bayern Munich would struggle without their main source of goals, but they had no reason to worry. Academy player Zirkzee looked right at home.
Just 120 seconds in and the teenager’s instinctive touch set Bayern on their way to their first goal. Five minutes later, his blocked shot led to Bayern’s second. It wasn’t long after that the teenager making his starting Bundesliga debut scored one of his own. Like much of his so far young career at Bayern, Zirkzee didn’t need any time at all to make his impact.
Bayern needed just a quarter of an hour to silence any concerns. Flick’s side were as ruthless as they have been all season, pressing and pushing for more in a manner that Bayern haven’t really done since the Pep Guardiola years. This was a demonstration of power, a reminder of who the real sheriff in Bundesliga town is, and a young Dutchman was at the heart of it.
At 1.93m, Zirkzee is a bigger figure than Lewandowski. He used that strength to hold off Sebastian Rudy before turning the former Bayern and Germany midfielder around. Keeping his composure, the 18-year-old simply waited for the space to open up in the box. When it did, he didn’t hesitate to use his weaker foot to apply the necessary finish.
Bayern’s hosts played their part, but Bayern also did more than accept the invitation. They took the vibe to another level. Philippe Coutinho went from looking down and out to scoring two goals, while Thiago continued to conduct proceedings with his usual mastery. Bayern were so relentless that they scored one minute after the restart and even at the arrival of the hour mark, they looked desperate for more.
The Dutchman never forced the issue because he didn’t need to. He was in rhythm with Bayern’s beat. His touch and feel for the ball looked like those of a more experienced player. Zirkzee ran, he passed, he slipped in and out of the channels, he even delivered a crunching tackle on the edge of the box he was attacking. He was everywhere.
After scoring the winner against Freiburg with his first touch off the bench on his debut in December, Zirkzee needed just three minutes to break the deadlock against Wolfsburg three days later. In Sinsheim, the teenager needed a quarter of an hour to prove that he is at home at this level.
Just a day after Bayern Munich celebrated their 120th birthday, the real gift for Bayern wasn’t another rousing performance but the long-awaited unleashing of an academy talent in a position they so desperately need depth in.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich have commenced training in small groups with the club following the German government’s guidance on Coronavirus precautions.
Zirkzee is in a group of four with Alphonso Davies, David Alaba and Robert Lewandowski, and he reveals how Hans-Dieter Flick’s side makes the most of their time at Sabener Strasse.
“We train in separate groups of four, maximum five people. Group 1 must be at the club by 10 am and start when group two has to change. We are now also using the changing rooms of the second team, so actually you always change alone,” he said.
“Every day, we actually follow a course in which everything is included. Technique, condition, finishing, everything is discussed.”