What can Liverpool expect from transfer of RB Leipzig star Naby Keita?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seems to have a clear plan for next season – while their rivals continue to be linked with hosts of big names, some more realistic than others, the Reds look like keeping things simple working on just one or two ideal targets. This refreshing approach to the transfer market has seen them land the excellent Mohamed Salah virtually unchallenged for just £37million, while Dominic Solanke has been poached from Chelsea with just a tribunal fee to be paid. Next on Liverpool’s list seems to be highly-rated RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita, and despite being a slightly ambitious target, Klopp doesn’t seem to be looking at alternatives.
Either he gets the specific player he wants, or he doesn’t. So why is the German so desperate to land this immensely talented 22-year-old? Here’s a look at how he might fit in and how he could play an essential role in the boss’ vision for Liverpool… Where does he play? Keita has perhaps not yet nailed down his best position, but that is just testament to how good he is in a number of different midfield roles. In 29 Bundesliga appearances last season, the Guinea international started 17 games as an out-and-out defensive midfielder, but also 12 games in a more advanced role. This kind of flexibility could be perfect for Klopp’s all-action 4-3-3 formation, which has required the likes of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Giorginio Wijnaldum and occasionally Adam Lallana to defend and attack in equal measure, and switch from one to the other very quickly. What are his strengths? The more appropriate question might be ‘what are his weaknesses’ because there barely seem to be any. Keita’s form in Germany shows he could be absolutely ideal for the frenetic pace and physical nature of the English game, with his average of 2.6 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per game making him the ideal shield in front of the back four.
Despite being only 5 foot 8, Keita’s strength and sheer brute force make him hard to get past, and equally challenging to get the ball off when he charges forward. With his record of eight goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga, he essentially looks like an N’Golo Kante who can attack: his pass accuracy of 81.8% was the best in Leipzig’s squad last season, and only attacking midfielder/winger Emil Forsberg bettered him for assists; his eight goals also made him joint-second highest scorer behind striker Timo Werner. He can find the back of the net after dribbling past players, or he can hit the odd screamer from long range – what more can you ask for? The video highlights above say it all – Keita looks a joy to watch in full flow and plays arguably like the player Paul Pogba is supposed to be. With rumours that he wants the number 8 shirt at Liverpool, perhaps he believes he can be the new Steven Gerrard – big boots to fill, but a welcome addition if he could pull it off.