Joshua Zirkzee has revealed the prospect of one day filling Robert Lewandowski's boots at Bayern Munich was a big part of the reason why he decided to join the record champions over English Premier League club Everton in 2017.
Zirkzee, 18, made headlines prior to the 2019/20 winter break when he stepped off the bench to score a Bundesliga debut goal with his first touch, and propel Bayern to a last-gasp win against Freiburg. The Dutch teenager repeated the trick at home to Wolfsburg just days later to reach two top-flight goals in record time.
A permanent fixture in the Bayern first team and a Bundesliga record-breaker now, it could have been very different for the former Feyenoord prodigy.
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"Everton was a serious option for me," Zirkzee told Voetbal International, recalling his time as a 16-year-old trialist at Goodison Park. "Ronald Koeman was coach, Romelu Lukaku left for Manchester United that summer and I got the feeling from Everton that there was a good chance I could really become something there. They even offered me a contract whilst I was on trial."
Sadly for the Toffees, their plan came unstuck when Bayern came calling. He made the switch to Munich in summer 2017 and, after working his way up through the U17s and U19s to the reserves, the Netherlands youth international was promoted to the first team by interim coach Hansi Flick in November 2019.
"After I first trained with Bayern, I knew that's who I wanted to join," he said. "I told myself, let me do three sessions - then I'll decide if I'm good enough.
"They told me I have the quality, but also that they wanted to work on my conditioning, among other things. They've been true to their word.
"I want to become the striker at Bayern - that's always been my objective."
For the time being at least, it's a position Robert Lewandowski has under lock and key. The Bundesliga's all-time leading non-German marksman struck 19 times during the first half of 2019/20 alone, and Zirkzee does not need reminding how fortunate he is to be learning from the very best No.9 in the business.
"His movement from crosses or how he moves between the lines," he said of the Poland international, who has snaffled 221 Bundesliga goals since moving to Germany with Borussia Dortmund in summer 2010 and joining Bayern four years later. "His timing, how he shields the ball, his sprints towards goal - I'm taking in everything Lewandowski does."
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