Name: Johan Bakayoko
Position: Forward – Right Winger
Preferred foot: Left
Only one team in Europe’s top 55 leagues has enjoyed a perfect league record: PSV Eindhoven with 16 wins in 16 matches. Peter Bosz’s side have scored 56 goals and conceded 6, and they sit 10 points above defending champions Feyenoord and 14 above Twente and on pace to win their first Eredivisie title in six years. They have reached the Champions League knockout round for the first time in eight years, where they will face off against Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16.
PSV will open the new year with a visit from Excelsior before hosting Twente in the second round of the KNVB Cup, and they’ll be looking to continue their flawless start and push for silverware on multiple fronts after a season that saw them win the cup and finish second in the league. One player who is proving vital for the Dutch giants is Belgian winger Johan Bakayoko.
Born in Overijse, Belgium, he was eligible to play for Cote D’Ivoire or Rwanda but decided to play for his country of birth, making his debut under manager Domenico Tedesco in the 2024 UEFA Euro qualifier 3-0 away win against Sweden on 24 March 2023, coming on the 61st minute as a substitute. He’s gone on to feature for eight times for the Belgian national team, scoring once in a UEFA Euro Qualifier against Estonia on 20 June 2023 which ended 3-0 in favour of Belgium.
The youngster who played in the youth academies of OH Leuven, Club Brugge, Mechelen and Anderlecht has established himself as an essential component in the PSV team under Bosz who is known for his inclination of giving young players a chance to grow and advance in their development, scoring 3 goals and providing 8 assists in 16 Eredivisie games and adding a goal and 4 assists so far in the UEFA Champions League, including the qualifying rounds.
PSV have lost just once this season: a 4-0 thrashing in North London to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. They would bounce back by taking four points from a potential six against Lens and Sevilla, before closing out their group stage campaign with a 1-1 draw to Arsenal. Bakayoko delivered an impressive performance against the Gunners, creating danger with his dribbles, cutting inside and shooting from distance whilst vigorously pressing to force a mistake from his opponent.
Bakayoko’s direct runs at defenders can split the opposition’s defensive line and put the goalkeeper under pressure, with the young Belgian capable of producing a superb first touch under pressure and more than confident enough to maneuver his way past a plethora of opponents before carrying the ball forward with his blistering speed on the counter-attack. With his combination of ball control and and his superb confidence on the ball, Bakayoko is more than capable of keeping his fullback guessing in 1v1 situations, whilst he is also proving more and more effective in aerial duels thanks to a developing physical frame.
Playing alongside the likes of Luuk de Jong, Hirving Lozano, Guus Til, and Malik Tillman, Bakayoko is a lethal threat on the flanks, capable of whipping in deadly crosses and spotting teammates with inch-perfect through balls. A brief look at his stats exemplifies this with a total of 537 passes, successfully completing 457 of those passes with a pass completion rate of 85.10%. He has provided 40 key passes in the process, taking a total of 30 shots, 12 on target, indicating a 40% shooting accuracy. Whilst he needs to improve in terms of his shooting accuracy, his dribbling is up there with the best with a dribbling success rate of 61.33%.
Having won the Johan Cruyff Shield in 2022 and 2023 and the KNVB Cup in 2023 with PSV, it has been quite the meteoric ascent for the 20-year-old, having previously scored 20 goals and 13 assists in 50 Eerste Divisie matches for the PSV reserves. Statistically, he is proving why he is one of the top players in the Netherlands across various departments: only Heerenveen’s Osame Sahraoui (3.7) is completing more successful dribbles per game than Bakayoko (3.3) whilst only PSV teammate Joey Veerman (9) has more assists than Bakayoko (8).
There is an Eden Hazard-shaped hole in Belgium’s attack, one that Bakayoko will be looking to fill under Domenico Tedesco as he prepares for his first-ever senior tournament at the international level. From Jeremy Doku to Leandro Trossard to Kevin De Bruyne, competition is tight in the Red Devils’ attack, but if he continues progressing at this rate, Bakayoko may very well have a starting role to play in next summer’s UEFA European Championship.
By: Ogenyi Paul / @234programmer
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Denis Doyle – UEFA