Naby Keita is one of the revelations in the Bundesliga this season and also one of the rising stars at RB Leipzig, a club which itself is on the rise.
If you were to ask Liverpool fans which player over the last ten years they wish Jurgen Klopp would re-sign right now, they’d say Luis Suarez – and who could blame them? – But after that they’ll likely say Javier Mascherano.
The Reds have been lacking a consistent, dynamic holding midfielder for some time now, and are confident of landing one of the hottest midfield properties in Europe.
Name: Naby Keita
Current Club: RB Leipzig
Height: 5ft 8”
Position: Central Midfielder
Keita was interested in football at a young age and joined his local football club, Horoya AC, when he was nine and then moved to France in 2012 to play for FC Istres.
FC Istres wasn’t the only club interested in young Keita however; the Guinean had unsuccessful trials at Lorient and Le Mans.
Eventually being promoted to the first team, Keita made his Ligue 2 debut in 2013 – scoring 11 goals in 23 appearances from midfield.
In 2014, Keita joined Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg and featured in 30 games – scoring five goals and registering two assists. The following season, he won the award of Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year before moving to RB Leipzig.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Keita plays as a defensive midfielder at Leipzig but has also played in more advanced roles at earlier stages of his career, being adept in both circumstances.
Not dissimilar to former Chelsea midfielder Ramires or Man City’s Fernandinho, Keita’s ability to pick up the ball in midfield and force it into a position of attack with his blistering pace is invaluable to his teammates.
In fact, he has completed the second most dribbles in the Bundesliga this season – only behind Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele – and Keita is fairly efficient in attack too; being directly involved in 11 goals this season.
He is even more impressive with his defensive attributes; he makes an average of four defensive contributions per game – winning 69% of his take-ons.
However, the midfielder does have his drawbacks. He’s pretty much useless in aerial duals, only managing to win a quarter of attempted headers but he tends to play to his strengths; attempting 98 tackles in 22 Bundesliga appearances so far this season.
Comparable to Emre Can, Keita has defensive duties but does look to get forward as often as possible and get involved with the offensive. The way he charges down opposition players would also be a huge plus in the eyes of Jurgen Klopp.
Where would he fit in?
Keita would likely be considered as a player to often feature in Liverpool’s starting team. In fact, should he join Liverpool, it’s possible he’d be preferred over Can but there’d also be a shout to play Keita and Emre together.
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This could be a useful asset for Liverpool to have for next season as we will, hopefully, have two lengthy domestic cup runs, a decent Premier League campaign and a pop at either the Champions or Europa League.
To sum it up, 22-year-old Keita is the type of player capable of dictating from the centre of the park and that is something Liverpool are in desperate need of right now.
The Guinean has garnered interest from other top clubs, such as Dortmund and Arsenal, and it’s for good reason; he’s part of a rare breed of players that can transform a team.
Keita is definitely capable of having the type of effect N’Golo Kante had on Leicester in the 2015/16 Premier League season… but probably to a lesser degree. Leipzig are by no means a one-man team but they’ve no business currently second in the Bundesliga (six points clear of Dortmund in third) and Keita is definitely a contributing factor.
Whether Liverpool will actually sign him or not is open for discussion – there’s lots of interest in the Guinean dynamo and that’s only likely to become more prevalent as we nudge closer to the summer transfer window.
It’s likely that Keita will leave Leipzig this summer if an appealing opportunity comes along and that might just be with Klopp at Liverpool.
Written by Steven Carson