Liverpool to beat Arsenal and Real Madrid to PSV player Zakaria Bakkali
Liverpool, 10/3 Premier League title chances, will rival rumoured interest from Arsenal (a 14/1 shot) and Real Madrid (4/1 for the Champions League) in PSV Eindhoven starlet Zakaria Bakkali, according to claims made in the Dutch press.
Belgium cap Bakkali, 18, is believed to be stalling over signing a new deal at the Philips Stadion, and PSV are anxious to avoid losing this emerging talent for nothing in 2015.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has dispatched scouts several times earlier in the season, and they have brought back glowing reports to Anfield about Bakkali. Arsene Wenger is also keen on bringing the youngster to the Gunners.
A PSV spokesman said: “Bakkali is a player that Wenger rates very highly. Arsenal have kept an eye on him and aware that other teams want him, so could move in the summer to buy him.”
Injury to Bernabeu academy product Jese Rodriguez, in Real Madrid’s massive 9-2 aggregate victory over Bundesliga outfit Schalke in the Champions League, may also see Carlo Ancelotti step up interest in Bakkali.
Eredivisie outfit Eindhoven are trying to persuade the player’s agents – who happen to be his aunt and uncle – that staying in the Netherlands is best for his development. The loan signings of Park Ji-Sung from QPR and Fulham forward Bryan Ruiz in the last two transfer windows have limited time on the field for Bakkali, however.
Bakkali announced himself in the Dutch top-flight in August by hitting a hat-trick in PSV’s 5-0 thrashing of NEC, becoming the youngest player in Eredivisie history to achieve this feat. A senior call-up and first cap for Belgium followed against Wales in October, but he has been in and out at Eindhoven since then.
National coach Marc Wilmots has a roster packed full of talent to choose from ahead of the World Cup. Bakkali faces stiff competition from the likes of Tottenham attacker Nacer Chadli, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens of Napoli and Everton winger Kevin Mirallas for a spot, but may sneak in to the final squad.
Belgium qualified for Brazil automatically ahead of Croatia and are fifth-favourites at 14/1 to go all the way at their first tournament since 2002. Drawn in Group H with Russia, South Korea and Algeria, Wilmots’ side are odds-on at 8/13 to win their pool and qualify for the knockout phase at 1/6.