Who is Liverpool target Naby Keita? We profile the RB Leipzig midfielder
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 04/07/17 2:15pm
Liverpool have been heavily linked with a big-money move for Naby Keita - but what do we know about the RB Leipzig midfielder?
The 22-year-old played an integral role in Leipzig's surprise challenge for the Bundesliga title, with the club finishing second behind Bayern Munich and qualifying for next season's Champions League in the process.
Keita made 31 appearances in the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign, scoring eight goals and assisting seven following his summer move from sister-club RB Salzburg last year.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the Guinea international…
Naby Keita - Factfile
Born: Conakry, Guinea
Position: Central midfield
Club: RB Leipzig
International recognition: 18 caps for Guinea
Born in the Guinean capital of Conakry, Keita left his hometown club of Horoya AC to join French club FC Istres in 2013, aged 18.
An impressive campaign in Ligue 2 followed, with Keita scoring four goals and seven assists in 23 appearances.
Keita then joined Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg in the summer of 2014, going on to win both the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup in his first season at the club.
In his second season with Salzburg, Keita's 12 goals and seven assists steered them to another league and cup double, while he also picked up the Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year award.
Keita's impressive two-year spell in Austria saw him move to newly-promoted Leipzig for £9.35m.
The Guinean international hit the ground running in Germany, coming off the bench to score the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund in his Bundesliga debut.
The 22-year-old was integral to Leipzig's push for the title, and while they finished 15 points behind Bayern, the club secured a second-placed finish ahead of Dortmund and Hoffenheim.
What the stats say…
Keita ended the season with an overall rating of 7.60, according to whoscored.com, ranking him fifth in the Bundesliga - behind Thiago Alcantara (8.28), Arjen Robben (7.82), Emil Forsberg (7.75) and Robert Lewandowski (7.74).
Only Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele made more dribbles per game (3.2) than Keita (2.7), putting him ahead of Bayern duo Robben (2.7) and Douglas Costa (2.5).
Among midfielders, Keita is eighth (38) in terms of key passes during the 2016-17 campaign, while his seven assists were bettered only by team-mate Forsberg (17) and Hoffenheim's Kerem Demirbay (8).
And when combining goals and assists, only Forsberg (six goals, 17 assists) can better Keita's tally (eight goals, seven assists) from midfield.
But Keita does not shy away from defensive duty. It's evident he lives up to the bill as a box-to-box midfielder.
The Guinean made the sixth-most tackles (80) of any midfielder in the Bundesliga, while his 81 interceptions also puts him sixth in that category.
Where would he fit in?
Keita is very much a central midfielder - the stats prove he is comfortable in either half of the pitch.
Jurgen Klopp is said to be a huge admirer of Keita, and it's difficult not to see him slotting straight into the German's starting XI should he move to Anfield this summer.
Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson might have something to say about that, though the current Liverpool trio could well find themselves fighting to play alongside the new arrival.
This is, of course, all hypothetical. Leipzig are reportedly reluctant to sell Keita and a £70m price tag has been talked about. Whether Liverpool are prepared to pay that remains to be seen, but former Liverpool striker Titi Camara thinks his fellow Guinean is keen on a move to Anfield.
'A player with elite skill sets'
Is Keita worth £70m? Ted Knutson, former head of player analytics for Brentford and Midtjylland, has suggested he thinks he would be a hit at Anfield.
"His skill set is extremely rare, and elite skill sets - especially for all-rounders - tend to command huge transfer fees in football," Knutson told Goal.
"Given his age, production, and fit for that particular style of play, I could easily see a team setting the Bundesliga transfer record right now.
"If he plays regularly, that could certainly feel like good business a couple of years down the line. There are a lot of good midfielders out there, but none who is quite like Keita."
Former Liverpool midfielder Jason McAteer told the Daily Mirror that he thinks Keita would be a good signing.
"I watch a lot of the Bundesliga and Keita is a terrific player. He's in the mould of N'Golo Kante and Claude Makelele - he's full of energy, always breaking play up and getting his team on the front foot," he said.
"If Klopp manages to get him out of Leipzig it would be fantastic and allow Can to play a more forward role which would suit him better."
There are reports that Keita is set to hold talks with Leipzig about his future this week, and will intimate his desire to leave for Liverpool.
But club chief executive officer Oliver Mintzlaff has told Sportbuzzer that they are "immune" to offers and transfer talk is getting "boring".
Whether Leipzig are playing hardball or are actually determined not to sell their star asset remains to be seen, but with almost two months of the transfer window remaining there is plenty of time for this potential deal to play out.