Joseph Kavaloski explains why spending £70m on Naby Keïta is very risky business for Liverpool Football Club.
With Mohamed Salah already in tow and Liverpool ready to capture its next target, a number of names have been prominently linked in the past week. One player who has long been rumoured as a target is RB Leipzig’s Naby Keïta.
The Guinea international is a 22-year-old midfield dynamo coming off a season in which he was ranked as the second best player in the Bundesliga, behind only the immortal Robert Lewandowski.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Keïta is a part of a fast rising Leipzig squad that just finished second in the league and has its eyes set on its first Champions League campaign. As a result, an enormous price tag of anywhere between £50-70 million has been placed on the excellent young midfielder.
Keïta’s first and only season in Germany was spectacular as he racked up an impressive eight goals and seven assists despite playing as a deep lying midfielder. Defensively, the Guinea international was perhaps even more impressive, recording 2.6 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per match.
Keïta is known for a fantastic work rate in all areas of the pitch that allows him to effectively break up play in the centre of the park while also working his way into dangerous offensive areas. His well-rounded skill set has proven dynamic in the tactics-oriented Bundesliga and at only 22 years old, the sky appears to be the limit for the young star.
Being rated as the second best player in the Bundesliga is no small feat, but expecting an immediate impact of that calibre in the Premier League would be foolish of Liverpool fans.
Keïta is an extremely talented player who would fit perfectly in Klopp’s system, but there are a few reasons to be wary about bringing him in for an astronomical fee.
First, adjusting to the Premier League can be extremely difficult for some supremely talented players (Ángel Di María is a perfect example).
Keïta is only 5’8, 150 lbs. In a league dominated by size and physicality, Keïta’s frame could put him at an immediate disadvantage.
Another issue behind a £70 million Keïta transfer is the immediate pressure that will be placed on his shoulders. Any player brought in for a club record fee will be facing enormous expectations with his new club’s fanbase.
Then, adding the pressure of a club like Liverpool can make a transfer of this magnitude nearly unbearable for a young player. Expectations will be sky high as soon as he first puts on his training kit, and his every move will be over-scrutinized to the highest degree.
This is not to say that the young star cannot handle the pressure, but it will certainly impact how fast he settles at his new club.
If Keïta is for some reason slow to adjust and is not an immediate member of the starting eleven every single week, fan pressure could become debilitating and permanently impact his mindset for the Reds.
Finally, if the Reds spend such a large sum on Keïta, it may limit the quality of player that can be added in defence.
Liverpool would still like to add a central defender and a left back before the season commences, and Keïta’s transfer would put a significant dent into the club’s transfer budget. Any scant remaining hopes of a deal for Virgil van Djik would be immediately squashed.
Keïta is an incredibly talented player who still has room to improve despite already being one of the better midfielders in the world. His skillset would almost certainly make the Reds significantly better in midfield and could vault them into the title conversation.
However, in the unlikely event Keïta was to be a bust, the Reds will have wasted an enormous amount of money that could seriously impact the club’s transfer business in future windows.
FSG has money and is willing to invest it in the club, but outside of Real Madrid, both Manchester clubs, and perhaps Barcelona, a £70 million failure means serious trouble for a club’s finances.
This is not to say that Liverpool should not add Keïta, but the Reds simply need to evaluate and prepare for the risk of his transfer not being a complete success.
His fee will be astronomical and the pressure will be sky high, so the Reds need to fully evaluate all their options prior to finishing any deal.