The Class of Naby Keita
Keita was quiet but determined, soaking up as much information as he could and listening intently to the guidance of team-mate Jerome Leroy, a veteran midfielder who cut his teeth at Paris St Germain. Out on the pitch, his natural athleticism and eye-catching creativity marked him out as a player to watch in a division containing another emerging youngster by the name of N’Golo Kante.’
Naby Keita’s move is the best thing to happen to Liverpool but the Anfield side will have to exercise patience for his arrival next year.
Keita’s arrival is not only a statistic to Jurgen Klopp’s list of transfers in a bid to chase for trophies, it is one of great value as it is poised to amplify Liverpool’s midfield and attack. He has gone from unknown to a club-record signing in just three years.
The 22-year-old’s remarkable strides at such a young age, showing maturity in his ability to command the midfield, is credited to his playing style described as dynamic.
As a box-to-box central midfielder, he has crafted himself into the perfect middle man who has not wasted time in making his presence felt with comparisons made to Andre Iniesta, N’Golo Kante, and Deco.
The Guinean who currently plays for Bundesliga club RB Leipzig since 2016, was nine when he began his footsteps at hometown club, Horoya AC but moved to France at the age of 17 in search of a bigger football career.
Eventually, within a year of moving to France in 2012, Keita made his league debut after earning a promotion with FC Istres’ first team.
His recruitment was a perfect timing for the second tier French side that was battling against relegation.
“I played football for a long time in France so I have a lot of contacts in the French game,” Frederic Arpinon, a former midfielder turned sporting director told Sky Sports.
“There was a guy I knew at Le Mans. He called me up and told me he had a very good player. He said, ‘Fred, trust me, you have to take a look at this guy.'”
At this point, Keita was unsuccessful in trials with FC Lorient and Le Mans FC but the latter could not sign him as it was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Arpinon’s curiosity got the better of him and sought to inquire his contact’s recommendation adding, “I wanted to know: Who is this Naby Keita?”
His findings, huge potential in need of refinement with the ability to rise up the football ranks.
“Everybody I spoke to told me he was a fantastic player,” he added.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Naby arrived and it was immediately clear he was on a different level. It was his technique. When he got on the ball, he reminded me of Andres Iniesta. After five minutes, I said, stop, stop, you are going to stay with us.”[/perfectpullquote]
In his debut season as a professional, he scored 11 goals in 23 games for the Ligue 2 side, but a relegation led to a follow-up call from Austrian top division side Red Bull Salzburg in 2014.
From scoring goals, he went to winning trophies, once again in his season debut with the Austrian side, clinching the league and cup double. A remarkable performance did not go unrecognized which for Keita earned him a selection as the Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year and soon after, saw him move to his current and Austrian’s sister club.
Today, while Liverpool feigns off bids from Barcelona for its prized midfielder in Phillipe Coutinho it is only reasonable that Keita’s arrival on 1 July 2018 is one bound to be game changing for the side with or without the highly sought after Brazilian. But then again, two heads are better than one.
“If you play for top teams you are going to sign good players. I have seen Naby play quite a few times and he looks a top, top player,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson delightfully said of the transfer.
“… Okay, he comes next year, but I am sure the club are delighted to get him because he will be a real addition to the squad and will hopefully help us over the next few years.”
Liverpool’s performance so far this season is garnering rave reviews, a picture that should motivate Keita on the other hand, the side stands to benefit more from a player whose skills have drawn in a deep appreciation of what damage they can cause. Recently against Schalke in this season’s campaign, Keita showed why.
The 5ft 6ins who has beaten all odds and stood out as a dominant and effective marksman in midfield, was a performance that outshone even the home side who emerged winners over RB Leipzig.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“…Naby Keita plays for two! The kid is unbelievable. I’ve rarely seen anything like it,”[/perfectpullquote]
“Even when three [Schalke players] were on him, he somehow managed to keep hold of the ball.”
Featured Photo: Getty Images