Cody Gakpo Is Primed for a Post-World Cup Transfer, but the Buyer Should Beware

While the World Cup is a respite from club football, domestic soccer never truly stops. International tournaments are the perfect shop window for players hoping to move or clubs looking to sell. Just think of James Rodriguez and his big-money move to Real Madrid.

And while the 2022 World Cup has plenty of break-out candidates, it seems safe to say that Cody Gakpo has stolen the show. While the Netherlands forward was already a trendy transfer target, his performances in Qatar will that PSV are able to cash in.

With that being said, though, the buying club should beware.

Cody Gakpo was already a hot prospect before an impressive World Cup

At the risk of invoking a soccer cliche, the Dutch Eredivisie is one of the best places to look for young talent. Prospects like Cody Gakpo are part of why that stereotype exists.

The Eindhoven native has been in the PSV system since his academy days and progressed through the ranks to become a fixture in the first team. While his potential was plain to see — you don’t earn a place on the Dutch national team, regardless of the age group, without some skills — he truly exploded during the 2021-22 campaign. He recorded 21 goals in 47 matches across all competitions, earning Dutch Football of the Year honors in the process.

That body of work, combined with his size and ability to play across the forward line, made him a trendy transfer target during the summer of 2022. Manchester United, Leeds, and Southampton were reportedly interested in his services, but PSV chose not to sell.

Thus far, that’s looking like a stroke of genius. Not only has the forward continued scoring for his club, but he earned a place in the Netherlands’ World Cup squad. He started the Oranje‘s three group-stage games and, more importantly, scored three goals in those contests.

That’s the sort of performance that makes big clubs take notice.

Gakpo certainly deserves a move, but this sort of World Cup could set a club up to pay an exorbitant fee

While it might sound like I’m setting out to call Cody Gakpo a (pending) bust, I’m not here to tear down his talent. The forward clearly has something about him — both in terms of scoring ability, physical tools, and the potential to play both as a wide man or a central striker — and should have a solid career ahead of him.

With that being said, though, there’s a difference between being a good player who’s worth $50 million and a $100 million bust.

On the back of the World Cup, we could be seeing that latter scenario. If the reports are to be believed, PSV were asking for about $46 million for Gakpo (h/t Manchester Evening News). That sum is certainly a risk, but it’s also reasonable for a club like Manchester United to spend. Since that number was quoted in early October, things have changed.

As we’ve established, the Dutch international has been playing well for both club and country. While his stats will inflate the transfer fee, it is worth flagging some potential concerns. Gakpo’s offensive numbers are almost exclusively in the high ninetieth percentiles, but those stats have been piled up against a weaker standard of opposition than he’d face in the Premier League. On a similar note, his three World Cup goals may have grabbed headlines, but they’ve come on four shots totaling less than one expected goal. You could argue that’s a show of his elite talent, but a more cynical reading would suggest there’s a fair amount of luck involved.

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When it comes to a post-World Cup transfer fee, though, some of that subtlety can get overlooked. PSV doesn’t need to sell their star player in January. The club’s brass can name their price — which is rumored to be around $60 million, although I personally expect the Dutch club to push for more — and see what happens.

In a best-case scenario, two big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United will get into a bidding war, turning a reasonable price into an eye-popping sum. If no one bites, there’s always the summer transfer window to try again.

It’s in that context that I’d beware of Gakpo. While he’s a talented player I’d gladly consider adding to any roster, the price tag is the complicating factor. While transfer fees have gone through the roof, the prospect of spending something like $80 million on a raw, albeit talented winger who’s piled up numbers in the Netherlands feels risky. Remember when we thought Memphis Depay would be Manchester United’s next big star after he left PSV for England? How did that work out?

In theory, though, clubs around Europe have directors of football, analytics departments, and all sorts of other checks and balances to prevent a big-money mistake. We’ll just have to wait and see what’s stronger: those safety nets or PSV’s desire to cash in ASAP.