Jack Hallows’ Summer Shortlist has had another name added, although, let’s be honest here, this guy’s been on it for at least a number of months prior to this article being published. Who is it? None other than RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita.
If N’Golo Kante played in the Bundesliga, scored goals and worked as more of a box to box option you’d have Naby Keita.
The Guinean midfielder has been a revelation for RB Leipzig this season and while Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner get much of the credit, Keita has been a massive part of why they’re sitting second in the Bundesliga table right now.
One man midfield
There’s been calls from a lot of former players, pundits and even fans for the Reds to sign a better-rounded midfielder in the upcoming summer window and Keita could genuinely fit that bill perfectly.
Despite being just 22 years old, the Guinean midfielder is already drawing comparisons to N’Golo Kante for his hard tackling, intelligence and workhorse style of play while also managing 7 Bundesliga goals and 8 assists.
Simply put, he practically hits the nail on the head for everything Jürgen Klopp could possibly want in a central midfielder.
The best part? He can play anywhere in the midfield you ask him too and would be just as at home in Adam Lallana or Gini Wijnaldum’s role as he would in Jordan Henderson’s.
There have been other midfielders touted as potential options for Klopp this summer such as Dahoud, William Carvalho and Paredes but for me, Keita is just simply the best option.
He’s dynamic (65 successful take-ons), he’s got an impressive passing range (80% pass completion rate), his game intelligence is very good (61 interceptions) and he’s capable of playing at a very high tempo while navigating tight spaces on the field.
Best of all, he’s also very capable on the front foot.
The midfield in Klopp’s 4-3-3 are all expected to contribute to the goal scoring tally with Lallana (7), Wijnaldum (5), Can (4) and Henderson (1) all getting on the scoresheet this season. It’s nice to read then, that despite playing a number of midfield roles for Leipzig, Keita has managed to net 7 times in the Bundesliga in 25 appearances, assisting a further 8.
You honestly cannot argue how suitable Naby Keita is for this Liverpool system.
He could operate easily in Henderson’s role if asked but personally, I’d prefer to see him play the Wijnaldum or Lallana role.
The Guinean averages 1.71 tackles, 3 interceptions and 1.25 clearances per game, highlighting his defensive abilities while he also maintains a passing accuracy of 80%, averages 1.8 key passes per game and completes 3.25 dribbles per match on average too.
He is more than capable of being involved in the Reds intricate passing moves in and around the box and his ability to win the ball back time and again before playing through balls in behind for strikers has been key for Leipzig this season.
The thought of someone like him mopping up and feeding the ball through for the likes of Sadio Mané and Philippe Coutinho is just honestly such a mouth-watering prospect.
We’ve seen the importance of having N’Golo Kante in your side through the successes of Leicester last season and Chelsea this season and Naby Keita would provide us with a player similar to him while also offering numerous talents when going forward.
Keita is also young enough to fit perfectly into Jürgen Klopp’s preferred age bracket and would provide a mixture of already proven talent and the potential to be improved even further.
At 22 years of age, Keita is younger than Emre Can – whose development has, for the most part, thrived under Klopp when he’s fully fit – and I’d love to see the Guinean given the chance to improve and better himself under a manager of Klopp’s ilk.
Firstly, competition for his signature.
The Guinean is a man who is likely to be in high demand in the summer, especially if Leipzig continue on in the manner they have been so far – they sit second, 7 points ahead of third placed Hoffenheim and 8 ahead of Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund side.
If the Reds do go in for Keita – and I pray they do – he will likely see his price tag shoot through the roof due to reported interest from the likes of Manchester City and of course, the inevitable bid from Bayern Munich to try and clean up all of the league’s best players.
When it comes to the player himself, the only stumbling block I see is potentially his height.
Despite boasting a solid build and impressive fitness levels, Keita is only 5′7 which could see Klopp reluctant to look at him as a target. The German prefers a bit of height in his midfield and has often over the last year or so lamented the lack of big, physical presences in the middle of his starting XI.
That being said, N’Golo Kante is only 5′7 himself and is one of the most effective midfielders in the Premier League. He may not win huge amounts of aerial battles but with Klopp likely to target a new centre-back in the summer and none of Henderson, Wijnaldum or Can being ‘short’, it may not be seen as too much of an issue.
Suitability: 9/10 – Likelihood: 8/10