Since Jürgen Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool in 2015, the club’s recruitment has been nothing short of sensational – and a key component in turning a side struggling to qualify for the Europa League into Premier League, European and world champions.
Whilst some of the German’s acquisitions have raised eyebrows, the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah have transformed the Reds into the machine they are today, with a lot of the credit going to the boss himself for attracting this calibre of footballer.
One particular Klopp transfer which continues to split opinion amongst supporters is that of Naby Keïta. The Guinea international officially swapped Leipzig for Liverpool in 2018, after the £52.75m deal was initially agreed back in 2017.
Since his arrival, his Anfield career has been very stop-start – and niggling injuries continue to hamper his development and the dynamism so many supporters were initially so excited to see.
For many Liverpool fans, Keïta was seen as the direct replacement for Philippe Coutinho who left for Barcelona. After a solid pre-season, the club’s new No.8 made his Premier League debut against West Ham United, in which he got fans’ hearts racing. Performances against Crystal Palace which included ‘that’ Cruyff turn against Andros Townsend and Brighton had the Anfield faithful believing that Keïta would do the shirt the justice it deserved since it was vacated by Steven Gerrard.
His good start continued but he picked up a muscular injury during training which ruled him out for four games. This was the start of the muscular problems that would feature heavily as the season progressed, halting the strides made by the new No.8.Embed from Getty Images
The 25-year-old has continued this unfortunate trend of being in and out the team due to minor muscle injuries. During the Champions League-winning 2018/19 campaign, the midfielder enjoyed an instrumental first-leg performance against Porto alongside Premier League games against Southampton and Huddersfield Town, but ultimately missed the remaining games of the season after picking up an injury during Liverpool’s 3-0 loss in Barcelona.
This season, Keïta has once again fallen victim to injuries and fitness issues, very much like the rest of the Liverpool squad. But should Klopp be worried about the midfielder’s constant injuries and look to cash in?
During his time on Merseyside, Keïta has played 71 times in all competitions scoring seven goals and providing four assists. His win percentage as a Liverpool player is a very respectable 73.24pc, but the impact the midfielder had for the 52 wins he has amassed was arguably minimal when comparing to other players within the squad.
It’s clear to see that the Klopp likes the 25-year-old and the way he plays, and praised him as a ‘complete midfielder’. But with the arrival of Thiago, the emergence of Curtis Jones and the recent return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, could this see the former RB Leipzig star fall further down the midfield pecking order when it comes to matchday selection?
Thiago evidently has real star quality, Jones has been largely brilliant since bursting onto the first-team scene and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has struggled with his own injury issues, has produced moments of magic on numerous occasions which may work in the Englishman’s favour.Embed from Getty Images
There is hope, however. The undecided future of Georginio Wijnaldum and speculation that he could be leaving Liverpool in the summer, could be the opening that Keïta needs to cement a place within the starting XI.
Despite the 25-year-old’s stop-start time at Anfield, there has been no evidence thus far to suggest that the midfielder will be shown the exit door any time soon, with other fringe players offering Liverpool that little extra buffer should they need to cash to fund future transfers.
The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Marko Grujić will likely be among the first players that Michael Edwards will look to strike deals with and maintain his reputation of making a sizeable profit on bit-part players. Harry Wilson and Loris Karius may also be on their way out of Anfield, and in today’s market, these five players could potentially generate anything from £40-70m between them.
It has been a testing time for a player who has struggled with the acclimatisation to life in English football and to Klopp’s preferred style of play, but the 25-year-old still has time on his side and has always been seen as a long-term investment by the club.
A club who signs a player a year in advance, waits a full season for him and plays roulette with the transfer fee from RB Leipzig will not let go of that player easily, unless it is deemed to be the right move for everyone involved.
Keïta has all the right ingredients to succeed – he just needs that pinch of luck with injuries and a run in the side to fulfil his obvious potential.
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