Naby Keita of RB Leipzig is known to be one of Liverpool's top targets this summer, and with speculation heightening amid reports that the club will intensify efforts to sign the Guinea midfielder this week, it might only be a matter of time before Jurgen Klopp gets his man.
RB Leipzig’s new Nike kit was launched this morning, with no sign of their star man doing any modelling, whilst various people in the game, including former Liverpool player Titi Camara, have said they believe Keita wants the move and has made his feelings clear to his current club. Camara went as far as saying Leipzig are currently searching for his replacement, seemingly resigned to losing him.
It would reportedly take a fee of around £70 million for Liverpool to prise the 22-year-old away from Germany, and with them not baulking at that despite the fact a release clause of £48 million could be activated next summer, Klopp clearly rates the player. It is no surprise why.
Liverpool – for so long a team who bought quantity over quality – are only looking for players who they believe can go straight into the first eleven. Mohamed Salah will do just that, with Philippe Coutinho moving into midfield, and Virgil van Dijk would have come in for Dejan Lovren had he been acquired.
What is Keita like?
A mixture of Andres Iniesta and N’Golo Kante in terms of style, Keita is a box-to-box midfielder which Liverpool do not currently possess. He suits Klopp's pressing game down to the ground, and would not struggle to adapt to the Premier League, as he is robust and technically gifted in equally high abundance. His combination of strength, stamina, finesse and skill is unique.
In signing Keita, Liverpool would be buying a proven player; the best midfielder in the Bundesliga last season. The best in a league containing Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso and Julian Weigl.
Keita scored eight league goals and provided seven assists last season in 32 games, and whilst he has only been in Germany for a year, having been signed by Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg last summer, Liverpool have been aware of him for a long time. This is no one season wonder, but a player ready to dominate his position for years to come.
The combination of the dribbling skills reminiscent of Kevin de Bruyne, the man whose German transfer record he is likely to surpass, and the intercepting ability of Kante make Keita a player Liverpool simply cannot afford to miss out on. He would have at least as big an impact as Sadio Mane, his close friend, did in his debut season, and is the kind of next-level talent their progression requires.
Even with options in midfield like Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Marko Grujic, Keita offers something completely different, and is a class above. Most players offer a certain skill that they excel at, but Keita is an all-rounder, highly capable in many positions and able to surpass most in almost every area going.
His versatility is appealing for Klopp, and means that despite having so many other midfield options, he would still be a valuable asset. At just 22, he is only going to get better.
Even at almost double Liverpool's transfer record, Keita at £70 million would be worthwhile. He would represent just the statement signing the Reds need upon their return to Europe’s elite.
Such a special talent is not always attainable for Liverpool; they simply have to take the opportunity while they can.