Virgil van Dijk has backed his Netherlands international teammate Cody Gakpo to replace the outgoing Roberto Firmino in Liverpool’s attack.
Liverpool confirmed that Firmino, alongside James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, will leave the club upon the expiration of his contract at the end of June, ending a trophy-laden eight season stay on Merseyside.
During his final game at Anfield – in which he scored a late equaliser against Aston Villa – a teary-eyed Firmino said goodbye to the Reds’ fanbase having scored 110 goals in over 360 appearances.
Only 12 of those appearances have come as starts during the 2022/23 Premier League season, and that was largely due to the January signing of Gakpo.
The 24-year-old signed for a reported £40m fee from PSV Eindhoven and has thoroughly impressed in the false nine role in recent months – a role formerly played by Firmino. Gakpo has bagged six goals and two assists in his 20 games thus far and has become a key component of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Speaking about what Liverpool do without Firmino, Van Dijk revealed how impressed he has been with Gakpo to date.
Read more on Roberto Firmino’s depature from Liverpool
“I think it’s a very, very difficult role to play and I think Cody’s doing exceptional. He’s still learning, still adapting,” Van Dijk said.
“In my opinion, Bobby has been one of the best in this role. Cody, it’s his first six months and he’s already doing so well, so that’s a positive sign and he has to keep going, keep both feet on the ground, and listen to me!”
The towering defender also expressed his excitement for the trajectory Liverpool are on ahead of the 2023/24 campaign. Following a rocky start to the season, the Reds have been in fine form of late, winning seven of their last eight Premier League games.
“I’m very excited for next season,” Van Dijk said. “I think that feeling came a couple of months ago when we turned the page.
“Obviously there’s still a lot to work on but the good thing in this case is that we have the whole pre-season to work on this and that’s definitely the plan.”
On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby Cudworth and Graeme Bailey to discuss all the latest transfer news. On the agenda: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard, Ivan Toney, Ruben Loftus-Cheek & more!
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