Why this forgotten star deserves one more chance at Liverpool
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Opinion: Why Naby Keita deserves one last chance

It is safe to say that Naby Keita is the biggest transfer flop of the Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool.

Practically every one of the big-money moves since the German has come to the club has worked out better than anyone could have imagined.

The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Mohamed Salah joined for massive fees, but they now look like bargains.

Keita was one of the most exciting additions of them all.

He was signed from RB Leipzig for a club-record £54m (Transfermarkt) in 2017, but fans had to wait until 2018 to see him join the squad.

According to the BBC, the Reds paid his £48m release clause, plus a premium to ensure that they could get their hands on him. It shows just how highly he was rated by everyone at Anfield.

At the time, he was just 22-years-old. He was one of the best midfielders in Europe in 2016/17, despite his age. He looked destined to become a world-class star for years to come.

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Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Keita was thrown straight into the starting XI for the first game of the 2018/19 season. He was very impressive in a 4-0 victory against West Ham, whetting Kopite appetite’s even further.

Yet only constant frustration has followed. In the three seasons that Keita has been a Liverpool player, he has played just 53 times in the Premier League.

Injury-prone is an understatement.

Many fans have been frustrated by this unavailability, and the Guinean has been linked with a summer departure.

These demands grew after Keita was withdrawn after just 42 minutes in the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.

He didn’t play another minute for the rest of the season.

Keita a top player when available

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

While he did have a bit of a nightmare in that game at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Keita’s treatment since then has been incredibly unfair.

Before this game on April 6, Keita’s last Liverpool start came on March 7. He came off the bench just twice between these matches.

So he was very much coming in from the cold on the biggest of stages. He was always going to take a while to get up to speed.

We agree that Keita’s injury record is almost laughable. He can’t seem to play two games without picking up some form of knock.

But what gets overlooked is the fact that he is usually top-quality when he does take to the pitch.

In fact, we actually think that Jurgen Klopp is a massive fan of Keita and that if he could, he would be a key part of his first-choice XI.

The fact that he was chosen to play against Real Madrid is actually evidence of this.

Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

And we don’t blame the gaffer.

We compared Keita’s numbers at Liverpool since he signed to four other Reds who have played at No 8 during this spell. These are Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Keita came out on top for numerous per-90 statistics. These include non-penalty expected goals and assists, passes into the penalty box, goal-creating actions, tackles and interceptions, progressive carries and dribble success rate.

Basically, while it is a small sample size, Keita is phenomenal at every aspect of midfield play. He has done all this without getting the chance to play consistently at his top level.

Keita is still just 26. He is only just entering his peak.

A summer off and a strict fitness plan heading into the season may see him avoid picking up more injuries.

We understand that the last two summers have seen calls of “this is his year”. Perhaps it is naïve to say that this finally is the one.

But we think that Naby Keita is good enough to get this one last chance. Hopefully, Jurgen Klopp agrees.

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