‘Naby Lad’s Liverpool Career Has Been Plagued By Bad Luck And Injuries
By Nick Flores – LA Soccer Press /
In 2017, Liverpool singed then 23-year-old midfielder Naby Keïta from RB Leipzig for a £54m fee in what seemed to be a great move for both parties.
Keïta, or ‘Naby Lad’ as his Liverpool teammates call him, was coming off of a great year in the Bundesliga and had been on the radar of manager Jurgen Klopp and LFC for months before his transfer was completed.
Liverpool were getting a midfielder who matched its profile and criteria of pressing football, but also a player who was technically gifted on the ball.
While Keïta was a star in Germany during his time with RB Leipzig, he has yet to cement himself as one of the leagues top midfielders. The main reason for this is injuries.
The Guinean midfielder only missed a total of three games during his time in the Bundesliga, but during his time at Liverpool he’s already amassed a total of 54 missed games in three seasons.
Now heading into his fourth season with the club, it is no question that he is a very talented player but he must now prove he can stay fit.
While playing at RB Leipzig Keïta managed a total of 12 goals and 12 assists and displayed his elegance on the ball for two seasons in the Bundesliga. Since joining Liverpool however, he’s only managed six goals and four assists in all competitions.
Although his goals and assists record has been lackluster during his time at Liverpool, he has shown flashes of brilliance which give fans hope that he can still reach the levels he did at Leipzig.
Klopp however still believes that future of Keïta lies in Liverpool as he has full faith in the Guinean midfielder. At the end of last season, while Keïta was beginning to string together a run of games after an ankle injury in December, Klopp expressed his belief in his No. 8.
“Naby, he trains really well in the moment he looks really good in training,” Klopp said. “This year we’ve needed stability but in my opinion the long-term future of Naby Keïta is here.”
Stability was much needed for the Reds last season as multiple first team players endured either season-ending injuries or long-term injuries such Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez,Thiago Alcantara and Keïta.
While each of these players have since returned from injury, stability is still needed in midfield for Liverpool, and now more than ever.
With the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris-Saint Germain, Liverpool are without one of its top choices for the midfield heading into next season. It looks unlikely that the club will dive into the transfer market for a replacement, so this season is critical for Keïta’s career as he will likely play a bigger role with Wijnaldum gone.
A bigger role may be exactly what Keïta needs, though, as this is his chance to prove to everyone within the club and the league that he deserves to play a key part in the squad.
So far during pre-season, Keïta has been very impressive both in training and in friendlies as Liverpool has played two Bundesliga sides, FSV Mainz and Hertha BSC, in their pre -season preparations in Austria.
There were a lot of great things to take out of both games such as the return of center back duo Van Dijk and Gomez, and left back Kostas Tsimikas’. However the performances of Keïta arguably overshadows both.
In his most recent pre-season match against Hertha BSC, Keïta put together a phenomenal display showing exactly what he can bring to this Liverpool side. He was strong in tackles, displayed his composure and technical skill on the ball as well as his passing ability.
Keïta helped create a beautiful team goal, having played Mohamed Salah through in space before the Egyptian back-heeled the ball to Takumi Minamino to finish the play. Not only did Keita help create a goal for his side, but he controlled the tempo of the game from midfield pulling all the strings and helping his team retain possession and create chances.
Now heading into the final two years of his contract with Liverpool, this upcoming season will be crucial for his career.
He has already proven what he can do for the team and has shown what he can bring to the table, but now he must push to stay fit in order to revitalize his Liverpool career.
Flores is a student at Iowa State University. He writes about the Premier League for L.A. Soccer Press.