That’s according to David Ornstein, who revealed in his latest article for The Athletic that, despite both Leeds and Everton being heavily linked with a move for the PSV Eindhoven winger over the summer transfer window, it is Southampton who appear to be leading the race for the 23-year-old’s signature – with Saints having submitted an official offer for the Netherlands international.
The journalist went on to state that, while Manchester United were also believed to be keen on the forward this summer, with the club recently agreeing a €100m (£84m) deal to bring Ajax winger Antony to Old Trafford, Erik ten Hag’s side now appear to be out of the race for the PSV starlet – whom the Eredivisie side are believed to be demanding a £35m fee in order to part with.
While Antony is undoubtedly an exceptional young forward, when comparing the Ajax star’s returns to those of Gakpo at PSV last season, it would very much appear as if the latter would be a much more intelligent signing for £35m than the £84m man.
Indeed, over Antony’s 23 Eredivisie appearances in 2021/22, the £31.5m-rated winger scored eight goals, registered four assists and created seven big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 3.4 shots – 1.2 of which hit the target – making 1.7 key passes and completing 1.8 dribbles per game.
These returns saw the 22-year-old average an extremely impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.44, not only ranking him as Ten Hag’s third-best performer in the league but also as the seventh-best player in the Dutch top flight as a whole last time out.
However, over Gakpo’s 27 league fixtures last season, the £27m-rated forward bagged 12 goals, provided 13 assists and created 11 big chances for his teammates, in addition to taking an average of 3.0 shots – 1.1 of which hit the target – making 2.6 key passes and completing 2.9 dribbles per outing.
These returns saw the 23-year-old who Wierd Duk dubbed an “enormous talent” average an even more impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.51, ranking him not only as PSV’s joint best performer in the division but also as the fourth-best player in the Eredivisie in its entirety in 2021/22.
Furthermore, the Netherlands international also bettered the Brazilian’s returns in Europe, with the former scoring seven goals and registering one assist over 15 appearances in Champions League qualification, the Europa League and the Europa Conference league, while the latter bagged two goals and provided four assists over his seven Champions League fixtures last season.
Considering these factors, it is not difficult to see why Hesham Bilal-Hafiz stated his belief that the £35m signing of Gakpo would be the “smart move” for Manchester United to make as an alternative to their £84m move for Antony, as it is clear that the PSV talent is every bit as good – if not better – in the final third than the Ajax sensation.
As such, while it would appear as if Southampton are the side currently leading the race for the flying Dutchman, Orta simply must launch a late bid of Leeds’ own for the seven-cap international in the coming days, as Gakpo would not only look to be a player very much on Antony’s level, but for a £35m fee he could well prove to be one of the bargains of the summer window.