No player in the Championship gets more praise from the opposition managers. No forward causes such headaches for them to try and solve. Coventry City’s 24-year-old striker Viktor Gyokeres receives plaudits on a weekly basis, even from sides that have taken three points from the Sky Blues.
And there’s a good reason why.
He’s an impossible handful for defenders. Strong. Quick. An incredible progressor of the ball. The Swedish international has made some of the best centre-backs in the league look silly and even though he is worth his weight in gold across the whole of the pitch, he also has 12 Championship goals to his name. Only Middlesbrough's Chuba Akpom has more.
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He has 16 goal involvements in total, a number only Teemu Pukki and Iliam Ndiaye can better, all while playing for a far weaker team. Coventry were rooted to the bottom of the Championship for the first couple of months of the season following pitch issues after the Commonwealth Games. Despite that, they’ve recovered to the edge of the play-off picture, led by their super Swede.
The statistics prove what the eye test tells you. Gyokeres is more than ready for the Premier League. Judging him in comparison to the ‘next eight leagues’ - the eight best divisions outside the big five in Europe, he comes out with flying colours. He’s in the 99th percentile (top 1%) for progressive passes received, which measures how far he takes his team up the pitch, and in the 97th percentile for shot creating actions and dribbles completed.
The rarity of having a 6ft 2in forward that is both so strong and so powerful, while being an adept dribbler makes him such a unique talent. For Coventry he is simply irreplaceable, which is why Alan Nixon reports that they have put a £25m price tag on his head. Even with just 18 months to go on his current deal, selling him now would leave the Sky Blues seriously weak for the remainder of the season.
New owner Doug King said this month that none of the star players would leave this month, but his promise could be tested if Everton want him. The Toffees have just received £40m for Anthony Gordon and with Sean Dyche ready to take charge, he will want an action-packed deadline day to get his troops out of the relegation zone.
Unless Coventry get promoted this season, which seems unlikely at this stage, Gyokeres will almost certainly leave in the summer. If he adds another five to 10 goals to his tally his Premier League suitors will be more than willing to spend big on him. Burnley and Sheffield United, both destined for the top flight, will surely join the queue of clubs wanting to bring in a striker that is tailor-made for the Premier League.
His skillset makes him a sure thing. The elite defenders are a step up from those in the Championship, but he will still be quicker and stronger than most in the bottom half. The only thing that is preventing him from being world class is his finishing. He’s scored 12 league goals from an xG of 11.79 this season, which means he is slightly over-performing, but Coventry fans will tell you he can be wasteful at times; usually failing to spot a pass when a teammate is in a better position.
That said, it’s the only slight failing of a simply phenomenal striker. At his age, he is only going to get better as he emerges as a key figure for Sweden, and Coventry are set to turn a huge profit - either in this window or in summer - on a player they paid just £1m for in 2021.
Brighton must be kicking themselves for letting him slip through their fingers.