After just three appearances for Liverpool, Naby Keita has captured the hearts and minds of Reds supporters. The 23-year-old midfielder already has his own song, a re-hashing of the 2005 chant reserved for Rafa Benitez. An impressive start to the season from him and his teammates has ensured that Liverpool are now just 5/2 to win the league. In this article, we take a look at the origins of Naby Keita and see what he can bring to Anfield.
Naby Keita: The history
Born in Guinea, Naby Keita began his football career with hometown side Horoya AC coming through the youth ranks before being spotted by French Ligue 2 side FC Istres in 2012. The dynamic midfielder settled in well in France, bagging 11 goals in just 23 games in his debut season for the French outfit.
His form in Ligue 2 earned him a move to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, where he again went on to impress, despite playing in a side that was relegated from the Austrian Bundesliga. In his time in Austria, Keita found the back of the net 17 times in his 59 appearances.
Following Salzburg’s relegation, Keita was transferred to Sister Club Red Bull Leipzig, who had just been promoted to the German Bundesliga. Naby had to show resolve during his time in Germany, as Leipzig were by far the most hated team in Germany – imagine Man United, but worse!
However, he scored the winning goal against Jurgen Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund on his debut and starred for Leipzig as they finished second in the Bundesliga, only behind Bayern Munich. Keita was a vital part of Leipzig’s success in that season, with his box-to-box running and energy helping the team to execute their well-drilled pressing plan.
Keita struggled last season for Leipzig, as the team regressed following the tactical move away from pressing to a game of containment. However, he was still one of the side’s better performers and will slot right in to Jurgen Klopp’s heavy-metal style of football.
Keita’s greatest strengths
Running: It seems a bit base to rate one of a footballer’s best attributes as running, but with Keita, it is one of the most effective parts of his game. With or without the ball he is an aggressive runner, drawing opposition midfielders out of position and creating space for those around him. Don’t be surprised to see him win the ball back on the edge of the Liverpool area and thirty seconds later be heading the ball past the opposition ‘keeper.
Strength & Tackling: One of the reasons Keita is being compared to N’golo Kante is his strength in the tackle. The former Leipzig midfielder is a formidable opponent and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. Premier League midfielders looking to take the ball past Naby will be in for a rough ride.
What he can do for Liverpool
Since the sale of Coutinho to Barcelona midway through last season, Liverpool have struggled to find the creativity needed in the final third of the pitch to break down a stubborn opponent. Naby Keita is some way off Coutinho when it comes to creativity and technique, but his aggressive running will be the key that unlocks stubborn, defensive sides.
Keita’s anticipation in the tackle and ability to intercept opposition passes will be key to the Reds in tough away games as well. He will add an extra shield to the Liverpool defence, mitigating results such as the 5-0 loss to City last term.