Cody Gakpo at the World Cup may have demonstrated how he can be used in multiple ways at Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp should be looking forward to figuring out his best role.
In an unexpected twist, while many were expecting Liverpool to sign a midfielder in January, Jürgen Klopp’s first signing of the window will likely be an attacker.
PSV confirmed on Monday night that they have agreed a deal with Liverpool to sell Cody Gakpo and that the Dutch international will now travel to Anfield to complete the deal.
The exciting turn of events have also raised some eyebrows. After all, Liverpool already have several players who can play on the left-wing, even with the injuries to Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz. As well as the injured duo, summer signings Darwin Núñez and Fábio Carvalho can also cover the position for Klopp.
Gakpo coming in therefore seems to be a bit of ‘overkill’ at first glance, as his primary position for PSV has been on the left flank. However, underneath the microscope, it’s a transfer that makes sense, simply because Gakpo is not just a left winger. Perhaps the best demonstration of that came in the World Cup in Qatar.
Gakpo was played as a central attacking midfielder for the Netherlands in their first game of the World Cup against Senegal. Then he switched to become a left forward against Ecuador, before switching to right forward against Qatar and the USA, and then moving to a more central position against Argentina in the quarter-final.
In total he spent just 12 per cent of his minutes at the tournament on the left. As his Wyscout heatmap shows, a large chunk of his time was actually spent on the right, as well as in more central roles in the type of position either Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino would occupy for Liverpool.
His first goal at the tournament against Senegal actually came from the other side of the pitch. Gakpo found himself on the right wing and made a run inside the penalty area from the right which was spotted by Frenkie De Jong, who delivered the perfect cross onto Gakpo’s head.
That goal was a quintessential Liverpool goal under Klopp. From Gakpo finding the space to surge into the box and running into the box from out wide, to the cross that was delivered perfectly into a dangerous area from the wing, it all screamed Anfield.
The other two Gakpo strikes at the tournament were also reminiscent of Liverpool goals, but they were followed the blueprint of Klopp’s Brazilian forward rather than his Egyptian colleague.
Both goals came from the Dutchman positioning himself in central areas that would typically be occupied by Firmino at Liverpool. Against Ecuador and Qatar, Gakpo picked up the ball just outside the centre of the penalty area before taking a couple of touches, beating one or two defenders and finding the space to put the ball into the back of the net.
This demonstration of versatility might have been one of the final nudges for Liverpool to pursue a move for Gakpo. The fact that he is comfortable in other areas of the pitch and has played in central and right attacking roles in the past means that even after the return of Jota and Díaz, Gakpo won’t necessarily be reduced to sitting on the bench.
At just 23 years old, Gakpo is far from the finished product. And with so many qualities and possible ways of playing him — either on the left, right or the centre — Klopp can mould him into any type of player he wants the Dutchman to be. As the World Cup helped prove, that’s very exciting for Liverpool.