Can Cody Gakpo spark a Liverpool turnaround?

Weakened by injuries and plagued by inconsistent form, Liverpool has endured an incredibly challenging Premier League season. With eight wins, four draws and five losses, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have looked well off the pace for Champions League qualification and are currently outside the top four; they will need a stunning turnaround to have any chance of contending for the title.

To remedy matters, Liverpool acted swiftly in the January transfer window, securing the signature of Cody Gakpo, the highly sought-after Dutch forward. The 23-year-old, who scored three goals for the Netherlands at the World Cup, joined the Merseyside club from PSV Eindhoven for a reported initial fee of 42 million euros. Gakpo bagged 55 goals and supplied 50 assists in 159 appearances for PSV, which included a red-hot streak of nine goals and 12 assists in 14 Eredivisie games before the World Cup break.

Multipronged strategy

Liverpool’s move, in theory, did three things: it addressed an immediate need, providing attacking reinforcement for a side that has lost Luis Diaz to a knee injury and Diogo Jota to a calf problem; it prevented a direct rival from strengthening, for British media reports said Manchester United was also chasing Gakpo; it also future-proofed the forward line, ensuring a replacement has the time to be ready before Mohamed Salah (30) and Roberto Firmino (31) need replacing.

“There is a lot to like about Cody,” Klopp told the club’s official website, explaining the thought process behind the signing. “He is still only 23 but he already has a lot of experience. He was the captain of PSV, he was the player of the year in Holland last season and, as a lot of people have just seen, he also had a great World Cup.

“It is clear that he is already a really, really good player, but his age also means he has the potential to become even better. Offensively, he is very versatile and, on top of this, we know he is a smart footballer and a smart person, so we are really excited to be able to work with him.”

Slippery operator: Gakpo’s combination of power, speed and technique make him a difficult man to contain.

While the Gakpo move makes eminent sense on paper, it isn’t without risk. For one thing, it remains to be seen whether he can replicate the success he has had in the Netherlands in a significantly stronger, more physically intense league. There is also the knock-on effect his purchase could have on Liverpool’s transfer activity. Klopp will likely have less to spend in January, not ideal given that the midfield still needs strengthening.

“I would say in principle it’s like this for all people in the world: the money you spend has an impact on the money you can spend [in the future],” Klopp said. “We know what we want to do and we will see if we can do it. [But] I don’t want to disappoint anybody, we signed an outstanding player and the next thing you read is, ‘Who next?’ We cannot play like Monopoly.”

However Liverpool has a history of smart market moves and it is possible for the recruitment department to find value in a midfield buy. But even accounting for this, the Gakpo transfer has to work if the club has to have its best shot at climbing up a crowded league table.

And given the stakes involved — the financial benefit of qualifying for the Champions League is central to Liverpool’s business model and its ability to participate in the summer transfer window — the club will hope Gakpo can hit the ground running.

Can he succeed?

So, what are the chances of the 23-year-old succeeding in England? He is one of the rarer profiles in football: a ‘big-body’ wide forward, standing well over six feet tall. That, in itself, offers his team a point of difference.

Young giant: Cody Gakpo first caught the eye in the Eredivisie, the Netherlands top flight, before producing a star-making performance in the World Cup.

Young giant: Cody Gakpo first caught the eye in the Eredivisie, the Netherlands top flight, before producing a star-making performance in the World Cup.

He has a powerful burst, with enough pace to make a back-line anxious. Cutting in from the left to curl his finish to the keeper’s far post is his signature move, something he picked up from Thierry Henry, one of his idols. “I watched clips of him and tried to learn something from him: the way he comes in from the left and shoots with his right,” Gakpo said. “I tried to copy him a bit.” But he can go past his rival full-back on the outside as well, which makes him even more potent.

He has good feet for a big man: his dribbling isn’t as spectacular as, say, Antony’s, but it’s efficient. He frequently creates separation, finding the space to shoot, cross or combine with his teammates. Gakpo can function as an outlet and a transitional threat, but can also unlock low-blocks in settled play with one-touch passes and penetrating runs.

What Gakpo is truly elite at is ball-striking, off both feet. This makes him an excellent crosser and long-passer; more to the point, it makes him a dangerous goal threat even from less than optimal positions. It will be interesting to watch whether his physicality translates from Dutch to English — he bullied defenders in the Eredivisie — but it’s almost certain that his ball-striking will.

Driven to improve

The defensive side of his game has drawn criticism in the past, especially his pressing intensity. But Klopp is unlikely to have made a long-term decision without being sure that Gakpo will give him what he wants without the ball. The Dutch international is also driven to improve: in addition to training, he works with Tactalyse, a company which offers individual tactical coaching, with an emphasis on the small details. “Cody wanted to raise the bar and be more efficient,” Loran Vrielink, founder of Tactalyse, told BBC Sport. “He invests in himself.”

Gakpo’s versatility makes him the ideal multifunctional Klopp player, one who can essay several roles in a team which plays with fluidity within a compact structure. “The position he played most often is on the left but he can play different positions,” said Klopp. “He can play all four positions up front. Whatever you play, if you play a 4-2-3-1 he can play all four positions, in a 4-3-3 he can be the winger, if you play 4-4-2 he can play the wing and the striker positions.”

Gakpo is yet to kick a ball for Liverpool, but what he does over the rest of the season will have a significant impact on the club’s fortunes. Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands coach, said the young man has “everything it takes to become a star” and the potential to make a difference at the highest level. Liverpool fans will hope that those words come true over the next few months.

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European Golden Shoe 2021/22 standings

The 2021/22 European Golden Shoe race is over after a season in which the continent’s most prolific goalscorers were all vying to win one of football’s most prestigious individual awards.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski saw off the challenge of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to finish at the top of the European Golden Shoe rankings last season.

READ MORE: European Golden Shoe 2022/23: Current standings and past winners

Lewandowski scored an astonishing 41 league goals from 29 appearances, giving him 82 Golden Shoe points and the highest winning score since Ronaldo in 2014/15.

Manchester United star Ronaldo and Messi – who has moved from Barcelona to PSG – both entered the new campaign expecting to challenge again in the standings for the most goals in Europe.

READ MORE: Who will be the European Assists King for 2021/22?

Messi’s PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe and a fellow young star in Erling Haaland were also expected to be in the mix to top the Golden Shoe rankings and take the crown from Lewandowski.

Along with Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah started the season as the top Premier League candidates, though surprise winners have also emerged in the past.

This page was updated throughout the 2021/22 season with regular updates on the European Golden Shoe standings, and the final result can now be viewed below.


Robert Lewandowski has clinched back-to-back European Golden Shoe titles after another spectacular season.

The Bayern striker scored in his side’s last game of the Bundesliga campaign against Wolfsburg on May 14, with his future at the club looking uncertain amid transfer speculation.

Lewandowski therefore finished the league season with 35 goals to his name from 34 appearances, a total which saw him score the most goals in Europe for 2021/22.

Given the Bundesliga season is shorter than the other major divisions in Europe, Lewandowski finished before many of his rivals had completed their top-flight campaigns, but a huge lead meant his victory never looked in doubt.

Lewandowski secured European golden boot glory once more even though he fell slightly short of his historic 41-goal total last season.

He led the Golden Shoe race for most of the season, but while he was stable at the top, the chasing pack behind him was rotating regularly, right up until our final standings.

PSG sensation Kylian Mbappe, the Ligue 1 top scorer, ultimately claimed second place with 28 goals and 56 Golden Shoe points.

It was a remarkable year for the World Cup winner, who also had 18 assists in the top flight to tie Thomas Muller for the best creative total in Europe’s top-five leagues.

A hat-trick as PSG thrashed Metz 5-0 on the last day of the Ligue 1 season saw Mbappe leapfrog Karim Benzema and Ciro Immobile to finish as best of the rest behind Lewandowski.

It was the second-best goal total of his career, behind only the 33 he scored in 2018/19, and the attacker looks a likely winner of the Golden Shoe in the future.

Benzema (27 goals) recorded the best league goalscoring campaign that he has had in 13 seasons with Real Madrid, impressively beating the 24 goals he netted in 2015/16.

The France forward posted highest Primera Division total and was one of the most prominent challengers to Lewandowski in these standings for much of what was a sublime campaign.

Benzema may have taken second over Mbappe had he not had his schedule carefully managed by Carlo Ancelotti in the final weeks of the season after the domestic title was secured, with a Champions League final against Liverpool in mind.

Lazio forward Immobile, a former winner of this award, superbly scored 27 times in the league this season to top the charts in Serie A.

He has topped 20 goals in Serie A in five of his six seasons for Lazio and remains a prolific striker who consistently features in the Golden Shoe race.

Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder challenged Mbappe in Ligue 1 for much of the season and he finished with 25 goals to claim an impressive fifth-place finish in the Golden Shoe, boosted by a hat-trick against Brest in the penultimate game of the season.

Ohi Omoijuanfo, who played for Molde and Red Star Belgrade over the course of the campaign, came sixth and was the highest-placed finisher outside Europe’s fop-five leagues.

Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic finished level on 24 goals. Both of those players were fast starters this season which made them a permanent fixture on the leaderboard.

Completing the top 10 were the two payers who ultimately finished level in the Premier League golden boot race with 23 goals. They were Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who was the leader for most of the campaign in England, and his Tottenham rival Son Heung-min.

Strikes on the last day of the EPL season for that duo meant outgoing Dortmund star Erling Haaland, who will be joining them in England with Man City next season, finished 11th after racking up 22 strikes despite an injury-hit season.

So Lewandowski once again finished top of the prestigious Golden Shoe standings and the major league seasons across Europe have now come to a close.

Lewandowski becomes the 10th player to win the Golden Shoe twice – a total only bettered by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who were unable to challenge this season.

After not producing a winner since 1972, the Bundesliga has now come out on top for two straight campaigns, and the stage is set for another intriguing battle in 2022/23.

2021/22 European Golden Shoe

Who are the previous European Golden Shoe winners?

Lionel Messi has won the most European Golden Shoe titles.

The PSG forward has triumphed on six occasions, most recently in 2018/19 for Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo is his closest challenger with four career wins, though the Man Utd attacker has not come out on top since 2014/15 when he was at Real Madrid.

Nine players have two awards apiece, including Luis Suarez and Thierry Henry.

Messi holds the record for most goals and points in a season as well. He remarkably scored 50 goals in 2011/12, earning himself 100 points.

Ronaldo has come closest to breaking that, scoring 48 goals for 96 points when he last won the crown more than six years ago.

Argentina forward Messi is the only player in European Golden Shoe history to win the title three years in a row, doing so from 2016/17 until 2018/19.

Ronaldo, though, is one of only four players to have won the title with different clubs. The others are Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Mario Jardel.

Robert Lewandowski became the first Bundesliga winner since 1972 last season, with his 41 goals being the best tally for six seasons.

That came after Ciro Immobile won the 2019/20 European Golden Shoe, scoring 36 goals for Lazio in a tremendous Serie A season.

It was his first title, with the striker becoming the first Serie A player to have the most goals in Europe since Francesco Totti triumphed for Lazio‘s rivals Roma in 2006/07.

Ligue 1 has not produced a winner since Josip Skoblar in 1971, a statistic the likes of Messi and Mbappe are hoping to change soon.

What are the European Golden Shoe rules and weightings?

Only league goals are eligible for the European Golden Shoe, with each strike earning points in a weighted system depending on the quality of league.

The five elite leagues – Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – all carry a weighting of 2, meaning that a player will be awarded two points for every goal they score in these competitions.

For the leagues ranked sixth to 21 in Uefa’s coefficients rankings – which includes the top-flights in Portugal, Netherlands and Russia – goals scored are given a weighting of 1.5, and goals scored in a league outwith the top 21 are given a weighting of 1.

That was not always the case in the European Golden Shoe. From 1968 until 1991, the award simply went to the highest goalscorer on the continent, regardless of the strength of league.

Awards were not initially handed out between 1991 until 1996, when the new system came into force. Since then, only two players playing outside what were the five highest-ranked leagues at the time have ever won the Golden Shoe – Henrik Larsson (2000/01) and Mario Jardel (2001/02).

The Golden Shoe has been tied in the past, most recently when Suarez and Ronaldo shared the honour in 2013/14. Going forward, though, the award will be given to the player who has played the fewest minutes if two of them end up on the same number of points.

This page covers the 2021/22 European Golden Shoe race.

Last season’s standings can be found here and if you want to see the final results for the 2019/20 European Golden Shoe, follow this link.

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