In place of Roberto Firmino, who is leaving Liverpool’s attack, Virgil van Dijk has backed Cody Gakpo, a teammate who plays for the Netherlands in international competition.
With his contract set to expire at the end of June, Firmino will join James Milner, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in leaving Liverpool. His eight seasons on Merseyside were filled with trophies.
A tearful Firmino said goodbye to the Reds’ fanbase during his final match at Anfield, where he scored a late equalizer against Aston Villa. Firmino had scored 110 goals in more than 360 appearances.
In the 2022–2023 Premier League season, only 12 of those appearances were starts, largely as a result of the January acquisition of Gakpo.
The 24-year-old, who replaced Firmino as the false nine in recent months, was acquired from PSV Eindhoven for a rumored £40 million fee. Gakpo has scored six goals and provided two assists in his 20 games to date, and he has established himself as a key member of Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Van Dijk revealed how impressed he has been thus far with Gakpo in an interview with the Evening Standard about what Liverpool do without Firmino.
“I think Cody is doing exceptional, considering how challenging the role is to play. He’s still learning and adapting,” Van Dijk said.
“Bobby has been one of the best actors in this role, in my opinion. Cody, it’s only been six months and he’s already doing so well, so that’s a good sign, and he needs to keep going, keep both feet on the ground, and pay attention to me!”
The enormous defender also expressed his excitement for the direction Liverpool is headed before the 2023–24 season. The Reds have been in excellent form lately, winning seven of their last eight Premier League games after a shaky start to the season.
Van Dijk expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming season. “I believe that emotion surfaced after we turned the page a few months ago.
“There is undoubtedly still much to be done, but the good news in this situation is that we have the entire preseason to work on it, and that is unquestionably the plan.”