In a great soccer nation like the Netherlands, World Cup matches bring back memories of special tournament moments, of successes, defeats and goals. And, of course, to the unforgotten heroes of Elftal, who, somewhat surprisingly, were all surpassed in Qatar by a player whose star in the Persian Gulf emirate shines brighter than ever.
PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo has scored in each of the three group stage games, a feat no Dutchman has ever achieved before. No Cruyff, no van Persie, Bergkamp, Robben, Kluivert or Rensenbrink. And it wasn’t just any goals that Gakpo scored, but the important goals in the 1-0 win over Senegal, against Ecuador and against Qatar
In the round of 16 duel with the USA this Saturday (4 p.m. CET in the FAZ live ticker for the World Cup and on MagentaTV), this series should now last as far as possible. “He’s doing very well, and not just because of the goals,” says experienced midfielder Marten de Roon about his young colleague, who is actually not as young as Bonds coach Louis van Gaal seems to think he is.
When the old master among the World Cup coaches was asked about Gakpo a few days ago, he mused about a “very young player, only 21 years old”, although the son of a Dutch mother and a father from Togo is already 23. In dealing with The almost infallible van Gaal, who claims to be the best coach of this tournament, is obviously sometimes wrong when it comes to numbers and data.
Van Gaal’s coup with Gakpo
On the other hand, his decision to let Gakpo play in a different position than at the club turns out to be a real coup: in the center behind the strikers. The 1.89 meter tall professional “didn’t want to be a ten,” says van Gaal, who remained firm and remarked with his typical smugness: “Now he thinks I’m a great coach.”
In fact, Gakpo has grown quite tall for a central midfielder, which is why he actually feels more comfortable on the wing. At PSV, his trademark is a run from the outside left to the inside, followed by a goal with the right. He copied these movements from Thierry Henry, who is similar in size and still found solutions in tight spaces. “I don’t know if it works, but I tried to copy him a little bit,” Gakpo once said of the famous Frenchman. But not only van Gaal’s stubbornness and assertiveness play a role in Gakpo’s goals from Doha, he also made a not insignificant contribution to this development.
Last season he was courted by Manchester United and the local Dutch coach Erik ten Hag, but then decided to extend his contract with PSV until 2026, which was celebrated in the media. have to say to go to England after all, Leeds United offered 40 million euros. Those responsible in Eindhoven are said to have agreed, but Gakpo refused, even though he was giving up a lot of money.
One reason for this unusual decision is his strong bond with his club, which he has been a fan of since childhood and whose shirt he wore when he was eight. More importantly, he didn’t want to jeopardize his World Cup plans with the uncertainties of a change of club.
Interest from Liverpool and Manchester United
It’s now clear that that was pretty smart. Gakpo’s market value has risen significantly again at this tournament, which will also be reflected in his salary when the change comes at some point. “I think by the end of the season I’ll be ready to take the next step,” he recently said. However, media reports that Liverpool FC and Manchester United are said to be interested in signing Gakpo in the winter.
“It’s always nice to hear about this interest,” he said in Doha, but for now his full attention is on the Dutch World Cup project. And actually he still has something to do in Eindhoven, where he is playing for the national championship and is in the middle of a strong Europa League season.
He has scored nine goals and provided 12 assists in his 14 Eredivisie appearances this season, plus three goals and two assists in five European games. Including the national cup, he has 30 points this season, four more than Erling Haaland has collected at Manchester City.
But the Dutchman is not only compared to the Norwegian superstar on this level, the two are also similar in character, Gakpo’s youth coach Twan Sheepers once told the sports portal “The Athletic”. “He was brilliant from the start but he always wanted more” – even if he did score ten or more goals in a game, which occasionally happened when he was a junior.
Van Gaal, the man who is always right, who knew even before the World Cup draw that his team would end up in a group with hosts Qatar, has long believed in very special years ahead for Gakpo: “He has everything to become a big one and a big personality, he’s open to everything.” Certainly also for a few more games at this World Cup.