Gakpo has gone extra mile for success

The Herald

LONDON. — Cody is something of a trailblazer.

Liverpool’s latest signing, who will officially join from PSV Eindhoven at the start of the January transfer window, has risen to prominence over the last 18 months, becoming one of Europe’s most in-form and in-demand players. Tracked by a string of top clubs, including Manchester United, the 23-year-old forward has scored 21 goals and provided 25 assists in 41 Eredivisie games since the start of the 2020-21 season.

Predominantly a left-sided player, who can also play centrally, Gakpo’s stock rose even further with three goals at the World Cup in Qatar for the Netherlands.

Gakpo was born in Eindhoven and joined the PSV academy at the age of six. His parents, a Ghanaian father and a Dutch mother, have been among his strongest supporters throughout his career.

He has previously admitted to working on his game with his father in local parks when time allows, such is his dedication to his development.

His extra work also includes doing one-to-one sessions with performance analyst Loran Vrielink, a coach and founder of Tactalyse, which is a company designed to help footballers gain a deeper understanding of their games. “Cody wanted to raise the bar and be more efficient,” Vrielink tells BBC Sport.

“He invests in himself. Players are more aware that they have to do more individual work to improve themselves, they can’t simply rely on the head coach.

“A lot of details we discuss are not easy to coach because there isn’t the time. You analyse the game and see the things that make the difference, like where he picks the ball up and the orientation of his head and his body.

“All our players develop in a cognitive, tactical way. We adapt to things the coach wants and Cody embraces that.”

Vrielink says one of the main focuses has been helping Gakpo prosper in different positions. “Before the World Cup, we knew he was going to play as a number 10 or a striker in a different formation,” says Vrielink. “We focused on the different positions. At PSV, [manager] Ruud van Nistelrooy wanted different things from him this season than Roger Schmidt last year.

“He is always better on the left and looking at Liverpool’s squad, there is the possibility to play more [there]. That is where he was most successful.”

Gakpo scored nine goals and recorded 12 assists in the Eredivisie this season.

Both physically and stylistically, there are similarities with former France and Arsenal star Thierry Henry — a hero of Gakpo’s growing up, and somebody he still watches on YouTube. The 6ft 4in player is strong and technical, built more like a striker, but also has the pace and control required to play out wide. — BBC Sport.

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