Liver­pool | 23 | Mid­fielder

Australian Four Four Two - - NEW SIGNINGS -

If com­ing up against Liver­pool’s as­phyx­i­at­ing counter-press­ing was an un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence for op­po­si­tion sides last sea­son, the ad­di­tion of Naby Keita to their ranks is not go­ing to make things any more bear­able. The all-ac­tion Guinea cap­tain will add some ex­tra dy­namism and di­rect­ness to Liver­pool’s play, both in front of their back four and fur­ther up the pitch. Keita, 23, has been com­pared to N’Golo Kante, but he is a more creative player than the French­man. Op­po­nents who seek to close him down are li­able to be neatly sidestepped or to have the ball non­cha­lantly popped be­tween their legs, and Keita packs a punch in the fi­nal third, scor­ing 14 goals over the course of his two cam­paigns in the Bun­desliga with RB Leipzig. Like Kante, Keita cut his teeth as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller in France’s sec­ond tier. He started out at home­town club Horoya and had un­suc­cess­ful tri­als with Lori­ent and Le Mans be­fore mak­ing it third time lucky with Istres. He got his taste of first-team foot­ball in the 2013-14 sea­son, when Istres played in Ligue 2 along­side Kante’s Caen. Istres were rel­e­gated, but Keita did enough to earn a move to Red Bull Salzburg, where his ca­reer took off. He won an Aus­trian league and cup dou­ble in both of his two sea­sons in Salzburg and was named the Aus­trian Bun­desliga’s Player of the Year in 2016. Keita’s move to Liver­pool will re­unite him with Sa­dio Mané, who helped him set­tle in Salzburg be­fore his own exit for Southamp­ton. Keita has de­scribed the Senegal in­ter­na­tional as a “big brother”. As the in­her­i­tor of Steven Ger­rard’s No.8 shirt, Keita can ex­pect plenty of scru­tiny, but com­par­isons with mid­field greats are noth­ing new: he was nick­named ‘Deco’ by his fa­ther, Sekou, and refers to him­self as ‘Naby Deco Keita’ on his In­sta­gram ac­count.

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