When Liverpool paid a then club record fee for Red Bull Leipzig midfielder and hot prospect Naby Keita back in August 2017, it seemed the perfect signing for both parties.
The Reds agreed to pay the £48 million release clause that will allow the 23-year-old to move to Merseyside this summer, plus an undisclosed premium.
However, how has one of the Bundesliga’s most prominent stars fared this season ahead of his Anfield move?
After guiding RB Leipzig to a record runners-up spot and a first Champions League finish last season, it quickly became known that Keita was one of the fundamental driving forces behind one of football’s great underdog stories.
In 31 Bundesliga appearances last season, Keita recorded a healthy total of eight goals and seven assists from midfield, helping Leipzig finish higher than the likes of Borrusia Dortmund, Schalke, Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim.
However, the 2017/18 campaign has seen a significant decline for the club with their Champions League debut coming to an early exit and their league form taking a considerable blow. This has represented a genuinely disappointing campaign for the German side.
Keita’s record of nine goals and seven assists this campaign still highlights the individual talent that the Reds broke the bank for back in the summer.
When Philippe Coutinho was sold to Barcelona for a Premier League record £146 million fee, many fans had hoped they might be able to get Keita to Anfield in January, rather than the upcoming transfer window, as had been initially agreed.
However, according to the BBC Sport, both clubs swiftly confirmed that this wasn’t an option and Keita remained in Leipzig for the rest of the campaign.
Despite spending more time on the bench this season, due to injury, Keita has predominantly featured in the centre of midfield in a 4-4-2 for Leipzig, though he has appeared as part of a midfield three or further up the pitch on occasions.
Concerning playing style, the Guinean international is a natural box-to-box player, tenacious, incredibly fit and with the ability to affect the game at both ends of the pitch.
Jurgen Klopp’s team usually play with a three-man midfield, often made up of one sitting midfielder – usually Jordan Henderson or Emre Can, who looks set to leave Liverpool as a free agent in the summer.
The two central spots this season has seen a rotation between James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum.
However, injuries would suggest that more depth is needed towards the latter parts of the season and demonstrates why Keita would have been perfect for Klopp had they retrieved him in January.
When comparing Keita’s offensive statistics to Liverpool’s current midfielders, he more than holds his own.
With six domestic league goals, it represents more than any Reds midfielder has managed in the Premier League this season, and he also averages significantly more successful dribbles per game.
An encouraging statistic for Liverpool supporters as well will be the fact that all four of Keita’s league goals have come from outside the area, demonstrating he can replace the long-range shooting ability of Coutinho.
Liverpool will be hoping they can carry on their positive form between now and the end of the season, even without Keita, and the Reds’ progress in Europe will no doubt be one of the reasons the 23-year-old was so desperate to join Klopp back in the summer.
With the Guinean already signed up for next season and more sure to follow him to Anfield, Klopp will no doubt be under pressure to push the team to the next level and lay the foundations for a title challenge in the upcoming campaign.
Liverpool round-up: £27 million striker move; Karius’ Turkish talks; Alisson preparations
A new suitor could poach Divock Origi from Liverpool
The Liverpool Echo say that a surprising new interested party has emerged as Liverpool look to sell Divock Origi this summer, with Borussia Dortmund the latest club to have registered an interest in the Belgian, who has two years left on his Anfield contract.
However, the Reds are refusing to budge on their £27 million asking price which could prove to be problematic for the Bundesliga outfit. With only 11 days left in the transfer window, talks may be ongoing over the coming week and a half.
Loris Karius is edging closer to a Besiktas move
After his Champions League nightmare and the signing of Alisson Becker, the Mirror say that Loris Karius is close to an exit from Merseyside too. Jurgen Klopp has reportedly given his approval, provided that any offers for third choice Simon Mignolet goalkeeper would be rejected should Karius’ exit be confirmed.
Talks are ongoing between Karius and Turkish side Besiktas ahead of a potential loan move with a view to a permanent switch, which could suit all parties if it does come off before the deadline.
Alisson has been training with rugby tackling bags
New summer signing Alisson Becker has been training with rugby tackling bags in order to prepare him for what lies ahead in the Premier League, particularly with one eye on Monday’s trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace.
“It is not really rugby, it is goalkeeper training. All the boys did it. When Loris (Karius) came he did it, all the goalkeepers do it, and Alisson is doing it as well, of course. It is normal goalkeeper training. It makes sense to do it because the six-yard area is rather a proposal than a safety box for a goalkeeper… It is not that the goalkeeper has to change completely now for this league, we have to help him too in situations.”
Jurgen Klopp confirmed that the sessions have taken place in his early days on Merseyside, though the coach insisted that it is normal practice for his goalkeepers.
Liverpool round-up: Offer for Robertson; new deal for Grujic; Firmino wants title
Liverpool are preparing a pay rise for Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson may only have joined the Reds last summer, but the Scottish defender is in line for a new contract which will doubles his wages, according to the Mirror. The club have been so impressed by his form since joining from Hull that they want to reward him with a pay rise.
The left-back became a regular for Jurgen Klopp after a slow start to life on Merseyside and more than justified his £10 million fee, which now looks a bargain.
Marko Grujic is set to sign a new deal and depart on loan
After rumours of an exit throughout the summer, Sky Sports say that young midfielder Marko Grujic will sign a new contract at Anfield until 2023 and then head out on loan to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.
Grujic spent time with Cardiff as they won promotion from the Championship last season and was expected to return to Wales but a move never came to fruition and he will now go to Germany to continue his development.
Roberto Firmino has discussed his ambitions
Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has spoken exclusively to the Mirror to give an interview in which he made it clear that him and his team-mates are aiming for the Premier League title this season.
“I am optimistic and I believe Liverpool are capable of fighting for the greatest success this season. I also think we have a better team than last season and that the new players will improve the performance of the team. We have shown in the last campaign that our dreams can be fulfilled and that we can return to the path of winning titles. This year, we must not fail and that is the attitude of the players. I’m only interested in Liverpool and winning everything I can with them. We know what it would mean to be champions.”
Firmino discussed his future.
The former Hoffenheim man is a fan favourite at Anfield and clearly has no plans to depart the club in the near future with his sights set on success under Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool round-up: Klopp demands more; Klavan explains exit; loans for youngsters
Boss Jurgen Klopp has demanded more from Liverpool‘s fringe players
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has made it clear that he will not tolerate any complaints from unhappy fringe players this season as he relies on them to make their point on the training ground.
“I cannot make people happy, I never could. Whatever happens on 31 August there will be a specific point where it is clear that is the squad for the next four months until January. Who cannot be happy in these four months being part of the squad at Liverpool I cannot help. Everyone who trains on his highest level – because the decision has already been made that they are good enough to play for Liverpool – has a big chance to be an important part of the team, to stay in the team and all these things.”
The German did not hide his feelings having been forced to leave out the likes of Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan last weekend, whilst Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren remain sidelined. Klavan has since left the club, and as the transfer market enters the final stages in other countries it appears more exits could be on the way.
Ragnar Klavan has revealed that two Liverpool players encouraged him to leave
Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan completed a £2 million move to Serie A side Cagliari on Friday just before the transfer deadline arrived in Italy, and he has explained his decision to leave Merseyside.
“I had offers from several teams, including in other countries, but Cagliari really wanted me. Darijo Srna advised me to come here, as I talked to him via Dejan Lovren. Other Liverpool teammates like Alisson, Salah and Lucas Leiva all spoke highly of Serie A.”
Some fans may have been surprised to see him depart but given that he was entering into the final year of his contract and was unlikely to feature regularly with the likes of Matip, Lovren, Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk ahead of him, it makes sense.
Under 23s set for loan deals
The Liverpool Echo report that the final two weeks of the loan transfer window could see several under 23s players depart the club on loan in search of regular game time, joining the likes of Harry Wilson, Ben Woodburn, Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria who have already headed out on loan.
Many of those to feature for the team against Manchester United under 23s on Friday evening spent time out on loan last season, including Spanish midfielder Pedro Chirivella who was heavily involved in pre-season and was linked with a move away.
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