Few forwards in world football are currently garnering as much attention as Cody Gakpo. The Dutch forward’s two goals in as many World Cup games have increased rumors of a high-profile transfer during the January transfer window.
Excitement was great even before his international accomplishments. Gakpo has played 24 club games so far this season and has 13 goals and 17 assists. It’s tempting to counter that it’s only the Eredivisie, but this argument is moot given how well Manchester United’s summer acquisitions from that league have performed.
He might have easily joined United this past summer as well. Gakpo and Erik ten Hag had discussions about a potential switch to Old Trafford, but nothing came of it. Leeds and Southampton both made advances, but the 23-year-old ended up staying put.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from the team, United are once again looking for a new forward. Naturally, there is interest in Gakpo, which is shared by a substantial portion of the public.
Ten Hag is familiar with the player, who has been in outstanding form this year and is a clear offensive threat. But that doesn’t imply it entirely makes sense.
The main cause for concern is the position he plays. The majority of his games this season have come when he has played as an inverted forward, despite the fact that he was a part of a two-pronged assault in the Netherlands’ draw with Ecuador last week.
This season, Marcus Rashford has revived his career in that position, and Alejandro Garnacho has exploded into the first-team scene in that position as well.
Gakpo would be a step up from the left-wing choices available right now, but even if you accept that, it would still be an odd decision given that other parts of the field are more in need of development.
It would make more sense for United to spend their money on another center striker or even another left-footed option on the right rather than sign another for the left side rather than shelling out a large number to achieve a marginal gain in an already strong section of the play.
Gakpo has certainly demonstrated quality when played in the center, and there is no doubt that he could adjust to a new position, but given the money spent on signing him, it seems senseless to play him anywhere else than where he is at his best.
Another argument may be made that Garnacho, who has shown a lot of promise and has the potential to produce at a similar level if given the correct care, is better for United’s long-term interests than pursuing a player who is now playing so well on the left side.
Once more, with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, it boils down to what Ten Hag wants from his forwards. There is a school of thinking that suggests United would be better off compensating for his departure by adding another mobile forward, but there is also a counterargument that says they require a different kind of threat in the final third.
From the player’s perspective, it is also important to note that Antony has taken over the right-wing position, so joining United does not guarantee a regular starting position given the performances of Rashford and Garnacho.
He is taking a big risk by doing that, not just because of the possible playing time but also because United may end up playing another season in the Europa League if they don’t make the Champions League at the end of the current campaign.
Even while there is still a case to be made for signing Gakpo in the January transfer window if he is reasonably priced, doing so may not be the best course of action if he is intended to play on the left.