Who is Liverpool target Naby Keita? We profile the RB Leipzig midfielder
Liverpool have been heavily linked with a £50m move for Naby Keita – but what do we know about the RB Leipzig midfielder?
The 22-year-old played an integral role in Leipzig’s surprise challenge for the German title, with the club finishing second behind Bayern Munich – qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process.
Keita made 31 appearances in the 2016-17 Bundesliga campaign, scoring eight goals and assisting seven following his summer move from sister-club RB Salzburg last year.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the Guinea international…
Naby Keita – Factfile
Born: Conakry, Guinea
Position: Central midfield
Club: RB Leipzig
International recognition: 18 caps for Guinea
Born in the Guinean capital of Conakry, Keita left his hometown club of Horoya AC to join French club FC Istres in 2013, aged 18.
An impressive campaign in Ligue 2 followed, with Keita bagging four goals and seven assists in 23 appearances.
Keita then joined Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg in the summer of 2014, going on to win both the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup in his first season at the club.
In his second season with Salzburg, Keita’s 12 goals and seven assists steered them to another league and cup double, while he also picked up the Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year award.
Keita’s impressive two-year spell in Austria saw him move to newly-promoted Leipzig for £9.35m.
The Guinean international hit the ground running in Germany, coming off the bench to score the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in his Bundesliga debut.
The 22-year-old was integral to Leipzig’s push for the title, and while they finished 15 points behind Bayern, the club secured a second-placed finish ahead of Dortmund and Hoffenheim.
What the stats say…
Keita ended the season with an overall rating of 7.60, according to whoscored.com, ranking him fifth in the Bundesliga – behind Thiago Alcantara (8.28), Arjen Robben (7.82), Emil Forsberg (7.75) and Robert Lewandowski (7.74).
Only Dourtmund’s Ousmane Dembele made more dribbles per game (3.2) than Keita (2.7), putting him ahead of Bayern duo Robben (2.7) and Douglas Costa (2.5).
Among midfielders, Keita is eighth (38) in terms of key passes during the 2016-17 campaign, while his seven assists were bettered only by team-mate Forsberg (17) and Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay (8).
And when combining goals and assists, only Forsberg (six goals, 17 assists) can better Keita’s tally (eight goals, seven assists) from midfield.
But Keita does not shy away from defensive duty. It’s evident he lives up to the bill as a box-to-box midfielder.
The Guinean made the sixth-most tackles (80) of any midfielder in the Bundesliga, while his 81 interceptions also puts him sixth in that category.
Where would he fit in?
Keita is very much a central midfielder – the stats prove he is comfortable in either half of the pitch.
Jurgen Klopp is said to be a huge admirer of Keita, and it’s difficult not to see him slotting straight into the German’s starting XI should he move to Anfield this summer.
Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson would have something to say about that, though the current Liverpool trio could well find themselves fighting to play alongside the new arrival.
This is, of course, all hypothetical. Leipzig are reluctant to sell Keita, while Klopp is set to bring in more personnel as they prepare for a Champions League campaign of their own.
In his own words…
Keita refused to rule out a summer move earlier this month in an interview with Bild, though did state he was happy in Germany.
„I’m very comfortable at Leipzig. There are still three games to go, that’s what I’m concentrating on. My agent takes care of everything else. When it’s time, I’ll discuss it with him and my family.“
In their words…
Speaking to Leipziger Volkszeitung, RB Leigpzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is confident the midfielder will stay.
„We are a super exciting club. Naby sees how much the coach invests to make him better.
„If I take the celebrations as a benchmark, Naby will stay with us forever. You just don’t just leave a squad like ours.“
Meanwhile, Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff told The Times they have no reason to sell their best players as they look to build a squad capable of competing in the Champions League next season.
„We have decided that we will not sell any player from our starting line-up. Ralf Rangnick [Leipzig’s sporting director] told this to our team at the end of the season. We will keep our team together and keep on developing.“Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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