Scouting Report: Is Liverpool Transfer Target Zakaria Bakkali Overhyped?

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Scouting Report: Is Liverpool Transfer Target Zakaria Bakkali Overhyped?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Liverpool are planning to sign PSV Eindhoven's 18-year-old right forward Zakaria Bakkali, per Ben Jefferson at the Express, so here is a scouting report on Bakkali, a 5'5"Belgian international. 

 

Positives

When Bakkali hits top gear, he will win a foot race against most Eredivisie defenders. 

Source: Eredivisie.nl

He bolted into PSV manager Phillip Cocu's squad and disassembled NEC Nijmegen's defence with a hat-trick in a 5-0 win. 

It was the way Bakkali scored the three goals which made headlines. 

His first goal involved him getting a first step past NEC centre-back Rens van Eijden and smashing a left-footed shot which careened off the crossbar and into the net.

Source: Eredivisie.nl

Bakkali's second goal saw him cut inside from the right and place a consummate left-footed finish past NEC goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.

Source: Eredivisie.nl

The third was the best quality as Bakkali turned then-NEC centre-back Michel Breuer inside out and laced a right-footed shot past Johnsson.

Source: Eredivisie.nl

Bakkali displayed two-footedness, scored three goals from three shots, completed 93 percent of his passes and accumulated eight of nine dribbles against NEC, per Squawka.com.

Source: Squawka.com

Not only was a new star born, but Cocu had unearthed PSV's long-term attacking triumvirate: Bakkali on the right, Memphis Depay on the left and Jurgen Locadia up front (he provided a hat-trick of assists against NEC).

 

Negatives

In hindsight, Bakkali faced NEC, a team headed for the worst defence in the Eredivisie this season (69 goals conceded in 28 games). 

NEC's right-back that day, Daan Bovenberg, is unemployed, per Transfermarkt.co.uk

Seydina Diarra, who was tasked with shielding the back four, was benched after the next fixture, a 5-1 defeat to PEC Zwolle (NEC conceded 14 goals in their first three games). 

Breuer, who marshalled NEC's shambolic defence against PSV, dropped down a level to play for Sparta Rotterdam in the Eerste Divisie, where he has faced Jong Ajax, Jong PSV and Jong Twente (the reserve teams of the aforementioned three Eredivisie clubs). 

Youri Loen, the left attacking midfielder for NEC against PSV—essentially a quasi left-back as he was forced to provide additional cover for left-back Kevin Conboy—was loaned out to Eerste Divisie team FC Dordrecht.

Point being: Bakkali performed against a team with marginal Eredivisie talent and headed for relegation to the Eerste Divisie (NEC are 17th out of 18 teams). 

Do you know how many additional goals and assists Bakkali has registered in the Eredivisie since the NEC game? Zero.

Cocu has left Bakkali on the bench in a 6-2 defeat to Vitesse, a 5-1 win over Utrecht, a 1-0 win over AZ, a 2-1 win over Cambuur and a 3-2 win over Go Ahead Eagles.

What was a concern has turned into a major red flag with Cocu favouring Fulham loanee Bryan Ruiz, a 28-year-old on a temporary stay, over Bakkali, one of PSV's most promising talents. 

 

Deja Vu

PSV have a noted history with early bloomers who crash and burn, so you have to approach Bakkali with scepticism.

When Cocu was playing at PSV from 1995-1998, he was teammates with a Brazilian called Claudio Oliveira Pereira.

Claudio made his Eredivisie debut at 18 years of age but agreed to terminate his contract with PSV several years later, per Gerrit van Leeuwen at Sky Sports

Remember Johan Vonlanthen?

He was the can't-miss PSV Swiss wunderkind, who was hampered by injury problems and lost interest in playing the game at the highest level, per Gabriele Marcotti at the Times (subscription required). 

Nowadays, Vonlanthen is away from the spotlight playing for Schaffhausen

Genero Zeefuik was 16 years old when he played for PSV; however, he had weight issues and now is a borderline Eredivisie-standard player at Groningen.

Then-PSV manager Guus Hiddink was excited with emerging talent Ismail Aissati's progress. 

"I really enjoyed Aissati's performance," Hiddink said, per ESPN FC. "Despite his age [17] he knows exactly what it is all about."

Aissati is currently on the books of Russian Premier League club Terek Grozny.

You can't help but wonder if Bakkali is another Zakaria Labyad, who scored a double against Groningen as a 17-year-old and lived off that acclaim for a while until football writers started ripping his game apart. 

Labyad has not been world class for Sporting Lisbon and is rebuilding his career on loan at Vitesse (he scored against PSV in the most recent league fixture).

Perhaps Cocu is teaching Bakkali a lesson and knocking his ego down a notch.

EuroFootball/Getty Images

 

Bottom Line

The timing of Bakkali being linked with Liverpool is bizarre because he is not even in the PSV matchday squad. 

Wait and see how Bakkali reacts to being dropped because it could foreshadow how his career pans out. 

If he is going to end up being a superstar, he will get himself back on the PSV bench, impress as a super-sub and then beat out Ruiz for a starting position.

After all, Bakkali is part of the Belgian golden generation. 

Right now, it is more likely that Bakkali will be sent out on loan to a mid- or bottom-tier Eredivisie club next season, rather than being sold to Liverpool, which would be an unwise footballing move for the 18-year-old.

 

@allanjianga

Statistics via WhoScored

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