Gary Neville claims Cody Gakpo has proven Ruud van Nistelrooy right and Jurgen Klopp wrong

Gakpo scored the Netherlands' winner Saturday
-Credit: (Image: Twitter)

Cody Gakpo continued a transcendent Euro 2024 tournament with an essential moment on Saturday, his 80th-minute touch forcing an own goal that gave the Netherlands a decisive 2-1 win over Turkiye in the quarterfinals.

The Liverpool forward found himself with the opportunity after a well-positioned run off the left wing, lurking beyond the view of an attending fullback and meeting a driven cross unmarked at the back post. While not credited with a goal on this occasion, he's provided three goals and an assist through five games this summer, for which Gary Neville gave credit to Gakpo's former manager Ruud van Nistelrooy at the expense of Jurgen Klopp.

"He looks really sharp, Gakpo. There were times at Liverpool when you know he played deep, sometimes central. Neville said after Saturday's game. "But I went to see Ruud van Nistelrooy maybe 18 months ago now, or maybe 12 months, and he said 'Gakpo's definitely a left-sided player, a left-sided forward, that is his best position'. I think he's proven that in this tournament. That is a good run from the back post."

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Gakpo was born in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and joined the academy of local giants PSV at just eight years old. Despite a towering 6-foot-4 frame more commonly associated with central forwards, Gakpo excelled on the left wing under Van Nistelrooy, who joined PSV Eindhoven and took over as head coach during Gakpo's last season with the club.

Scoring 21 goals in his final 41 Eredivisie games, Gakpo became one of the world's most highly-touted prospects and arrived at Liverpool for a transfer fee of €42 million in the summer of 2023. However, Gakpo was victimized by a brutal rash of injuries that spread amongst the Liverpool roster, forced to move centrally and even into midfield as Klopp tinkered with his roster.

This instability led to a 13-match Premier League goal drought, which saw Jamie Carragher write "Gakpo plays like the game is in slow motion," and Klopp hold a private conference with the player, "Cody, he knows that he was, for a while, not in his best moment," Klopp told the media in May. "We had a conversation there, obviously not for public what we spoke about there, but it helped him a lot. We could sort it a little bit."

Gakpo suffered a lengthy Premier League goal drought
Gakpo suffered a lengthy Premier League goal drought -Credit:Getty Images

Gakpo roared out of his mid-season slumber, however, registering a goal in three of Liverpool's final eight matches and totaling 15 goals to go with six assists in all competitions this past season. "It’s really good to see how physically strong he is, how good a footballer he is," Klopp added. "He can play left wing, especially and center. Smart again, full of confidence, physical strength, good moment. Good for him, good for us.”

Despite Klopp explaining Gakpo's left-sided preference, he played the Dutchman centrally alongside Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz. But as he takes his preferred left-wing role at the Euros, Gakpo makes a bonafide case for Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament honors.