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Is Naby Keita ready to revitalise Liverpool’s midfield next season?

The Guinean international agreed a move to Anfield last summer.

Josh Kerr



Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Robert Michael/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Getty Images)

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.

I am a freelance sports journalist currently studying sports journalism at Staffordshire University with a passion for all things football. I'm a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club, as well as my local side Forest Green Rovers. I've worked for online newspaper VAVEL UK as well as a media assistant for Chester FC in the Vanarama National League.

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Liverpool news round-up: Fitness latest; Fekir move planned; midfielder deal imminent



Photo: Getty Images.

Milner and Can ready for Saturday

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has revealed that midfield duo James Milner and Emre Can will be fit to face Real Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev.

“Millie was clear [he would be fit] and Emre is a surprise,” Klopp told the club’s official website.

“He told me he would come back, try this and that and then we would talk to people. We thought it would be difficult, but he came back and from the first day it was like, ‘OK, that looks good, how do you feel?’ ‘Very good’ and then the next day ‘very good’ again.

“Now he trains completely normal. He’s a nice option and that’s why he is with us.”

Milner missed the final Premier League game of the season with a muscle strain whilst Can has been out since March with a back problem.

(Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

Summer move planned for Fekir

The Telegraph say that Liverpool are planning to up the ante in their move for Lyon playmaker Nabil Fekir after the Champions League final with the club confident of getting a deal done for a fee in the region of £60 million.

The 24-year-old is seen as a natural replacement for Philippe Coutinho, who Jurgen Klopp is yet to replace since he departed for Barcelona in January, and is one of the club’s top targets for the summer transfer window.

Can deal imminent

Whilst a transfer saga surrounding Fekir may only just be beginning, one could be coming to an end for midfielder Emre Can. His contract will come to an end this summer and he is now expected to join Juventus on a free transfer with an announcement looking to be closing in.

Gazzetta dello Sport report that Juventus chief executive Giuseppe Marotta expects the deal to be done “within 10 days” as the 24-year-old waits for Liverpool to close their season against Real Madrid in Kiev.

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Dejan Lovren epitomises Liverpool’s progression since previous Real Madrid meeting

Max Cohen



Dejan Lovren
Photo: Getty Images

The last time Liverpool played Real Madrid in the Champions League, the approaches of the two clubs could not have been more different.

The clubs played twice in the 2014 group stage, with Los Blancos smashing Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield and winning 1-0 at the Bernabeu.

Dejan Lovren was particularly culpable for the Reds’ first loss at home, as he was torn to shreds by the combination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Nonetheless, much has changed at Liverpool since those weak performances more than three years ago, with centre-back Dejan Lovren representing the Reds’ progression from continental lightweights to European Cup finalists.

In an interview this week with The Guardian, the Croatian defender claimed that the current Liverpool side is unrecognisable from the team that surrendered to Real Madrid in their 2014/15 Champions League campaign.

“The only thing that is similar is the name, Liverpool,” Lovren told the Guardian. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.”

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

These confident proclamations mark a fitting response from a player who has come a long way since he first arrived at Anfield.

Lovren has come under immense criticism for his performances at Liverpool, lambasted for a lack of pace, propensity for lapses in concentration, and poor decision making.

And even as recently as October, the Croatian was horribly found out during an abysmal first half performance against Tottenham Hotspur.

Yet, Lovren admirably picked himself up from past disappointment and has become an integral piece of Jurgen Klopp’s defence alongside Virgil van Dijk.

The 28-year-old has played every single minute of the knockout stages in Liverpool’s Champions League campaign, and will surely play a massive role in stifling Real Madrid’s high-octane attack in Kiev.

Dejan Lovren will be hoping for a far different response from Liverpool than their performance some three years ago, and his personal improvement will determine the Reds’ success on Saturday.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa would be the perfect platform for Harry Wilson if they are promoted

Josh Kerr



Photo: Getty Images

Aston Villa are 90 minutes of football away from a return to the Premier League, and they are already looking at potential signings for next season if they are promoted.

The Midlands side face Fulham at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship play-off final with a place in the top flight up for grabs. And, should Villa bring an end to two years outside of the promised lands of the Premier League, they will be determined to recruit properly to prepare themselves for next season.

According to the Scottish SunLiverpool are looking for a loan fee of £250,000 to snag impressive academy prospect, Harry Wilson, in a deal that would also see financial penalties issued should he not get the required amount of first-team action.

Wilson has been one of the brightest prospects in the Reds academy for many years and his recent form in the Championship is highlighting why there is such a buzz for this talented youngster and why the Villains should swoop.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Since departing for a temporary move to Hull in the January window, the 21-year-old has been in fine form, netting seven goals in 13 appearances to help Nigel Adkins’ side avoid the drop.

The youngster also made his international debut in his first start for Wales under new boss Ryan Giggs and netted a maiden goal for his country against China.

Despite the winger’s talents, it seems impossible to think that Wilson could break into Liverpool’s irreplaceable ‘fab three’ which means another loan move would be the best option for his development, and Villa’s potential promotion to the Premier League could set up the perfect platform in the top-flight for the youngster.

Loan deals are never ideal, permanent signings are what supporters want to see, but this is is a move that could be a benefit for both parties and something Steve Bruce should strongly consider.

The Villains likely have enough quality at their disposal to compete strongly in the Championship again next season, if they don’t win their play-off, Wilson could give them serious depth.

The winger is an elegant and languid play maker in the mould of Jack Grealish, and the combination of the two could get fans very excited for next season.

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