With the Premier League transfer window approaching the half way mark, the action in the market is gathering momentum. Having already acquired 4 players (Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic) and with 3 more close to penning a deal (Loic Remy, Divok Origi and Dejan Lovren), Liverpool FC’s transfer committee has been working overtime to bring in the talent requested by the manager. Aided by the multi-million sale of Luis Suarez, the club is looking to spend the money wisely so as to add the required depth to the existing squad to compete in the Champions League.
One of the key characteristics of transfers under the FSG regime has been the recruitment of young talents. Having already signed some of the brightest talents in and around Europe in Markovic and Can, the club have now reportedly turned their eyes towards Zakaria Bakkali of PSV Eindhoven. However, Liverpool aren’t the only admirers of the prodigy, with Tottenham Hotspur and Eintracht Frankfurt also showing interest in him , as well as Arsenal who have been long time admirers.
Bakkali, a Belgian player of Moroccan descent, rose to stardom with a superb hat trick for PSV Eindhoven against NEC Nijmegen at the beginning of last season. In the process, he became the youngest Eredivisie player to grab a hat trick at 17 years and 196 days. While a lot was expected from him over the season, he was restricted to few appearances. It didn’t help matters when he refused to sign a contract extension with the club and was shipped to the reserve team.
A product of the Standard Liege academy, he traded the Liege for PSV and has been under their fold ever since. He was expected to make his debut in 2012, but had to wait till 30th July, 2013 in a Champions League play off tie against Waregem.
Bakkali can play on the wings as well as a play maker, his preferred position being the right wing. He made a total of 16 appearances for the Eindhoven club, with 7 of them being starts. On the European front, he has had minuscule experience having represented the club at the Europa League in 4 matches.
A statistical analysis of the player reveals that he has a pass completion of 90% which is impressive for an attacker, considering he makes most of his passes in the final third of the pitch. For an 18 year old, he created 1.72 chances for every 90 minutes of play which is yet another impressive figure. Having a low centre of gravity, Bakkali is known to leave the defenders with their heels clicking. This is evident in the fact that he has completed close to 65% of his take-ons. Having scored 3 goals in the Eredivisie and one in a Champions League play-off, a shot accuracy of 80% at such a young age indicates a case of a talent to reckon with. He likes to cut in and shoot and and is strong on either foot, as was demonstrated in the hat-trick he scored last season.
While these stats might make him an exciting prospect, certain other factors must be taken into consideration. Being short in stature (164 cm), the player might not suit the Premier League, touted as the most physical league in the world. While he is still 18, and can possibly grow, he along with the likes of Brendan Rodgers will have to give it a long thought on his ability to adapt.
Brendan Rodgers has brought in a pressing style at Anfield, where even the front line has to do their fair share of defending. Bakkali on the other hand is not known for making significant defensive contribution to the team as is evident in the defence score given by Squawka. However, we have seen players like Raheem Sterling evolve into a more all round player under the guidance of Rodgers and can expect the same should Bakkali come under his fold
The player suffered some backlash from fans and media alike for not having signed a new contract with PSV. It is unlikely that he is going to sign a contract extension having come this far and PSV might be tempted to cash in on him. At 18, his attitude seems a bit excessive and a lot has been made of it. With less than a year remaining on his contract with PSV, the player can come cheap for his reputation and age.
One of his major concerns has been the lack of playing time at PSV. Even if he signs for the Reds, he may not see a lot of playing time with the first team with the likes of Jordan Ibe and Suso on the waiting list and this might dissuade the youngster from making the move.
It remains to be seen if Liverpool will sign Bakkali as they weigh the possibilities of him adapting to the Premier League and ability of the management to improve his talent. He has made the right buzz as a player so far, and would be a great young addition to the already existing young talent at Anfield.