African Deco has the drive

Liver­pool’s record new sign­ing has vi­sions of be­com­ing con­ti­nent’s best

African Independent - - SPORT -

LIVER­POOL agreed a re­ported club record fee of £48 mil­lion for Guinea in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder Naby Keita with Ger­man side RB Leipzig on Tues­day.

The 22-year-old will join the Premier League side in time for next season.

Here are five things on the young star: Not many Guinean play­ers have made it into the top tier of Bri­tish foot­ball, though Keita is not the first to play for Liver­pool as Titi Ca­mara turned out for the Reds for the 1999/2000 cam­paign be­fore mov­ing to West Ham United. How­ever, it was thanks to another Guinean that Keita got the chance to make his way in Euro­pean foot­ball. Hard­man de­fender Bobo Balde, who played with dis­tinc­tion for Celtic from 2001-09, or­gan­ised a tal­ent-spot­ting con­test in the French city of Mar­seille, which Keita at­tended al­most out of des­per­a­tion after be­ing re­jected by Le Mans and Lori­ent. Ligue 2 side Istres saw enough to take a punt on him for the 2013/14 season and he dis­played enough raw tal­ent for Red Bull Salzburg to sign him after that cam­paign. Balde may have been his saviour but for Keita it is Manch­ester City’s Ivo­rian four-time African Player of the Year Yaya Toure who is his role model - they are both box-to-box mid­field­ers - and whom he wishes to em­u­late in terms of be­ing ac­knowl­edged as the con­ti­nent’s great­est player. “I want to be the best African foot­baller,” he has said. “My idol from Africa is Yaya Toure... he’s strong, works hard and has made it to the very top.”

Grow­ing up in Conakry, he and his broth­ers played foot­ball in the street, but equip­ment was hard to come by and be­ing from an im­pov­er­ished back­ground, food and other house­hold goods were al­ways the pri­or­ity when his mother went to the shops. How­ever, that didn’t pre­vent the foot­ball-mad Naby from be­ing the prover­bial bull in a china shop as he told www.bun­ last season. “I al­ways looked for­ward to go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket with my mother,” he ex­plained. “There were

Den­mark in Group E.

If they can emerge un­scathed from a trip to Copen­hagen and a home clash with Kaza­khstan they will surely be head­ing to Rus­sia. a lot of round things to play foot­ball with. Un­for­tu­nately, there were also things like lamp­shades, which got bro­ken. My mum al­ways says that shop­ping with me was very ex­pen­sive!” Small in stature, he has earned com­par­isons with two-time Cham­pi­ons League win­ner, Brazil-born Por­tuguese pocket rocket Deco, and been tagged as “The African Deco”. In­deed he has now dropped his mid­dle name Laye and in­serted Deco in­stead. Like Deco, Keita makes up for his lack of phys­i­cal pres­ence with wiz­ardry and artistry on the pitch, cre­at­ing scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and also equally adept at scor­ing a few too. De­spite his suc­cess, Keita has not for­got­ten where he came from and he likes noth­ing bet­ter when he re­turns to Guinea than to chat about foot­ball with his child­hood friends, with whom he used to kick the ball about with in the streets of Conakry. His dream evening is to have din­ner with his mother and he ac­knowl­edges how for­tu­nate he has been to suc­ceed where so many African play­ers’ dreams floun­der, say­ing if he had not made it he would “prob­a­bly, like my fa­ther, re­pair mo­tor­cy­cles”. – AFP

Slo­vakia should al­low them to close in on qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Goal­keeper Jor­dan Pick­ford will miss the games due to in­jury.

The Slo­vaks are just two points be­hind in sec­ond and first host Slove­nia, who are third.

After run­ning Eng­land close in June, Scot­land need to beat Lithua­nia and Malta to stay alive. The game of the week­end will be in Madrid as Spain take on Italy at the Bern­abeu.

The sides have won all their games so far apart from their 1-1 draw in Turin last year. They will be the top two, but this game will help work out who qual­i­fies au­to­mat­i­cally.

David Villa, now 35, has been re­called to the Spain squad.

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