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According to recent reports, the Premier League giants Liverpool are mulling over a bid for RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita in the summer transfer window ahead of the next season.
The 22-year old midfielder has been one of the pivotal figures in the Bundesliga new boys’ amazing run that sees them in the second place in the table, giving leaders Bayern Munich a run for their money ahead of the likes of Borussia Dortmund.
Keita has emerged on the radars of many European giants including Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, but the club have no intention of selling their explosive midfield operator.
But who is Keita? How will he fit in into Jurgen Klopp’s plans? We take a look:
The 22-year old Guinea international came through the ranks at the Horaya FC in his hometown of Conakry, before joining the youth team of French Ligue2 side FC Istres. A year later he was promoted to the first team, where he netted an impressive 11 goals in 23 games, before moving to Austrian club RB Salzburg in the subsequent summer. In his two seasons with the Austrian giants, Keita notched up 81 appearances scoring 20 goals and assisting a further 11 strikes, emerging as fine young prospect. In his second year with Salzburg, Keita won the Austrian Bundesliga player of the year, paving a way for him to earn a move to RB Leipzig.
And he has been extremely influential for the newly promoted German outfit, notching up 21 appearances in which he has scored 4 goals and set up seven more, playing a crucial role in their run up to the second position in the German top-flight.
Keita has represented Guinea at the international level, making 12 appearances, including in this year’s AFCON, netting two goals.
The 22-year midfielder has been operating as a defensive midfielder for his club this season, but is equally adept at playing in advanced midfield roles as well. The biggest feature of his game, though, is that he is brilliant at taking the ball forward at blistering pace, so much so that, he has completed the second-most dribbles in the Bundesliga, behind only Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele. The fact that despite being played mostly in the deepest role in midfield, he has directly contributed to eleven goals gives a hint of his effectiveness going forward.
Keita has been equally efficient in his defensive duties this term, averaging a decent 3.23 tackles per game. Along with that, he averages an impressive 3.29 interceptions and 10.13 ball recoveries per game, giving an insight into his intelligence and ability to read the game and anticipate things at such a tender age.
At 5ft 8in, he isn’t the biggest presence on the field, but he more than makes up for it with his upper body strength. While he recovers possession for his team, it does not stop at there as he more often than not initiates attacks from deep areas with pinpoint through balls or carries the ball forward himself, before bringing his teammates into play and as a result is able to control the pace of the game and dictate play from the middle of the pitch.
Keita has been extremely effective in Ralph Hassenhuttl’s intensive pressing system in place at Leipzig, so he would be at home with the heavy metal, high pressing game at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.
The Reds’ deploy a 4-3-3 system which requires two box-to-box operators and Keita could fit right in alongside Georginio Wijnaldum or Adam Lallana. And having been used as a defensive shield this season, he could provide competition to captain Jordan Henderson in the role of the deepest midfielder.
Given the amount of interest in Keita, there are good chances of him leaving RB Leipzig in the summer. However, the club will be reluctant to lose their gem. He would be a perfect fit at Liverpool and Klopp will need to act fast if they are to have any chance of bringing him to Anfield.