Friday, September 29, 2023

Liverpool’s £85m target Johan Bakayoko ‘often lacks guts’ but teased Rangers and is shining with ‘big brother’ Romelu Lukaku for Belgium

Johan Bakayoko is an exciting forward who is about to burst into life this season.

The young Belgian is emerging as a January target for Liverpool as the club begin to contemplate life without Mohamed Salah.

Bakayoko is set to be a man in demand

The 20-year-old is set to play in the Champions League for PSV Eindhoven and will face Arsenal this term, so he now has the chance to prove what he’s all about on the biggest stage.

And if he performs anywhere close to his best, then Liverpool will likely find themselves with a lot more competition for Bakayoko’s signature.

The winger was born in 2003 in Belgium to a Rwandan mother and Ivorian father, meaning he could have represented either nation internationally.

But Belgium have quickly pounced, and Bakayoko has five senior caps and one goal already.

He started his career with OH Leuven before joining Club Brugge in 2015.

He struggled to make the grade with Brugge, so they shipped him off to KV Mechelen.

Bakayoko was too good for Rangers during PSV’s Champions League qualifying play-off

He spent two years there before Anderlecht came calling, but he still couldn’t make the breakthrough.

However, PSV had seen more than enough from the forward and brought him in aged 16 for a negligible fee.

In the club’s announcement, they said Bakayoko was ‘quick, agile and skilfull’ and it’s been lift off ever since for the Belgian international.

He rapidly progressed through the youth ranks and Roger Schmidt handed him his first-team debut when he was 18.

This followed an outstanding campaign for PSV’s Under-21s, where he scored 17 goals and provided 12 assists.

Bakayoko can play on either flank, but it was on the right where he showed his true capabilities.

International honours have soon followed for Bakayoko

Bakayoko has been compared to Chelsea’s Noni Madueke in his style, and ironically, his departure saw the forward take a regular place in PSV’s side.

The 20-year-old has been described as a ‘physical phenomenon‘ and likes to cut in from the right to create chances and crossing opportunities.

And setting up his teammates is one of his best skills, with the winger adept at finding players in space either through cutbacks or whipped deliveries to the far post.

He is also explosive over the first few yards, making him very difficult to mark as Rangers found out in the Champions League play-offs earlier this season.

In both games, he caused carnage down the right and picked up two assists, one with his right foot and the other with his left.

But despite his raw talent and ability, he has been warned against making a big move too soon.

Bakayoko looks a special talent

Dutch pundit Wim Kieft has told Bakayoko to stay with PSV and not jump into the Premier League just yet.

Writing in De Telegraaf, he said: “Bakayoko has qualities as a right winger, but something different is asked in the Premier League than against FC Utrecht or Sturm Graz.

“He plays more safe when teams adapt to him. He often lacks guts, while he possesses the qualities to go inside and out. A little more initiative wouldn’t hurt. But Liverpool at this stage of his career?”

So despite his obvious ability, it’s clear that there is some inconsistency within Bakayoko’s game.

But we must remember he’s still very young and didn’t make his first-team breakthrough properly until last year.

Despite this, Belgian boss Domenico Tedesco has seen more than enough to justify Bakayoko’s inclusion in the national team.

On his debut, he grabbed an assist off the bench, while he has started two of Belgium’s last three games, scoring and setting up another.

Romelu Lukaku has taken Bakayoko under his wingAFP

And while being with the national team, Chelsea outcast and Belgium’s top international goalscorer Romelu Lukaku has been looking after him.

Speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws about Lukaku, Bakayoko said: “He’s like a big brother. Together with [Yannick] Carrasco, he was one of the first players to warmly welcome me to the national team.

“Lukaku is a true leader, even verbally. Everyone in the locker room loves him. He always wants to win. This makes it easier for us to listen to him.”

So Bakayoko is now unofficially Lukaku’s little brother and you would think he will be sharing advice on moving to the Premier League.

He rejected a late move to Brentford on transfer deadline day and claimed he wouldn’t have left PSV even if someone had offered £85million.

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