In years gone by, the Netherlands have been known for producing fantastic attacking talent. From Johan Cruyff to Marco van Basten — Edgar Davids to Arjen Robben, the Dutch have always had a knack for producing some of the most creative attackers in world football, and their academies are renowned for their ability to consistently produce a conveyor belt of talent. While it’s too early to suggest Cody Gakpo could join that illusive list of greats, the way the forward has gone about his business this year is certainly a step in the right direction.
Traditionally a lot of Eredivisie attention is placed on the great Ajax teams — checking how they will get on in the Champions League and seeing how favourably they look amongst football odds for their upcoming domestic fixtures. This has been something of a blessing in disguise for PSV, who have quietly gone about their business and find themselves in the midst of a title race. But there is a small matter of a World Cup to deal with first, a competition Gakpo is shining in.
Fresh off the back of 17 goal contributions and two Eredivisie player of the month awards, Gakpo earnt a spot in the Netherlands starting 11, joining a world class dressing room that includes Champions League winners like Vigil van Dijk and some of the best midfielders in the world like Frenkie de Jong. That kind of atmosphere can either make or break a player, and Gakpo has thrived.
Three goals in his first three games set records for the Dutch, and Gakpo’s youthful exuberance has been as much of a handful in Qatar as it has been in Europe. The 23-year-old is fearless when driving at defenders, with his pace and strength making him a perfect fit for the physicality of tournament football. But that is doing his technical ability a disservice.
He is creative on the ball and his intelligent movement has allowed him to get in goal scoring opportunities. A versatile forward, he can play either out wide or as more traditional number nine.
Obviously, these performances have caught the eye, with both Chelsea and Bayern Munich interested in Gakpo’s signature. While flattered, he admitted his focus right now is helping the Oranje go as far as possible in the Middle East. “Right now I’m busy with the Dutch team,” he said. “I’ll see what happens in the winter. In football, anything is possible,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.
“I don’t get shy about the rumours. But it’s a team sport, it’s not about one person. I prefer it to be about the team. It’s nice things that people write but I’m not too concerned with that. I’m focused now on the World Cup. I just focus here and do my best.
“I know what I’m capable of but it’s always a challenge to reach your highest level, I’m not there yet; I can improve in a lot of things. I know I scored two goals this World Cup but that’s not the focus right now. I can improve, I want to help the team. It’s about being the best team in the end.”
Only time will tell what the future holds for Gakpo. The January transfer window represents a chance to play Champions League football, but with PSV currently third in the Eredivisie table, it will be interesting to see if he stays put and tries to win domestic silverware in Eindhoven before making a big move.