Cody Gakpo’s club and international team-mate Virgil van Dijk has praised him for being a ‘great guy’ – but insists it may take ‘a bit of time’ for him to recover at Liverpool.
Liverpool secured the signing of the Holland international last month in a deal worth £44m from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.
The 23-year-old missed the club’s trip to Brentford earlier this week because his work permit did not arrive on time. However, the formalities were completed soon after and Gakpo is preparing to make his debut for the club against Wolves on Saturday.
Cody Gakpo was supported by his international team-mate Virgil van Dijk ahead of his debut
Van Dijk, who faces a month on the sidelines after picking up a hamstring injury in the 3-1 defeat at Brentford, has backed the player to be successful at the club.
‘He’s a great player first and foremost but he’s also a great person, personality-wise,’ said the defender. ‘He will be great for the group. He is calm, as well and I think he is very good for us.
‘I think he will and he probably needs a bit of time. Obviously we will give him that and hopefully our friends will give him that too.’
The forward (left) joined Liverpool from PSV Eindhoven late last month and is expected to appear for Liverpool for the first time against Wolves
When asked about the pressure Gakpo is currently under, Van Dijk did not rule out taking it for the Holland international, but backed him to handle it – as long as he stays grounded and listens to those around him. .
‘I think he’ll handle it well but you have no idea what it’s like until you’re under this kind of pressure,’ he said.
‘He’s got to keep his head down and see what we’re doing as a group and listen to the manager, listen to the players around you and don’t listen too much to the outside world because you can be one of the best. in the world one day and one of the worst the next.
Van Dijk has urged the forward to listen to those around him to help his development into a ‘quality’ player for the club
‘So it’s not something in the middle, so he has to stay calm and I think he will. He is that type of person. I will help him in that matter, if necessary.’
With the club facing a long list of injuries, with the likes of Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino all out, Gakpo’s arrival will bring some relief to Jurgen Klopp in terms of forward options.
The defender has supported Gakpo to grow into a decisive player for the club over time and brings some much-needed quality to a seemingly lacking squad.
‘We need quality players and we need players who can decide games,’ said Van Dijk. ‘I think over time he’ll definitely be one of those players, hopefully. So quality is always welcome at this football club.’
Van Dijk’s closeness to the player at the World Cup has been noted by many Liverpool supporters, although it is almost inevitable in some quarters that he will soon end up at Manchester United.
Liverpool’s arch-rivals have been interested in him since the summer and have long been bookies’ favorites to land the forward.
However, in typical style, Liverpool jumped on board with little or no fuss and secured the deal within days.
This has led some to speculate that Van Dijk himself had a big part to play in securing the move – something he is unwilling to admit.
He said: ‘It’s just normal chats, not that I’m trying to convince him but when the time comes I give my honest opinion and that’s something I can always do.
‘It’s very positive because I’ve been at this club for five years and I’ve won every trophy at this great club and I know how much it means – every single one. To play under this manager and these guys, it’s a joy and something he will enjoy too.’
Van Dijk’s comments come amid Klopp praising Gakpo for joining Liverpool at the club at a difficult time.
Klopp’s side are currently seven points outside the top four, having dropped more points this season than last season combined.
‘There were easier moments to join Liverpool,’ said Klopp. ‘Last year we didn’t qualify for the Champions League but it looks like it will happen.
‘This year we can’t guarantee that but Cody didn’t ask. Every now and then the players ask, “Do you think you can reach the Champions League?” but he could read the table himself, so he knew it was a tough decision.
‘But what I like about it is that he’s obviously a man who doesn’t want to jump on a moving train, he wants to push the train. I like that very much. Good for him, as well, because it always helps in life if you’re a little like that. And that’s how it happened.’