Liverpool waited a year to bring Naby Keita home from Leipzig in 2018. So far, injuries have constrained the midfielder from taking up the pitch regularly for the Reds.
The 24-year-old kicked off his Liverpool career with spiffing displays in the early part of the last season. After the muscular problem, which kept him out for nearly three weeks, the midfielder had a chance to shine during a string of games. Yet, he failed to grasp the chance, facing a demotion out of the starting lineup.
Owing down to failures and the defensive susceptibility, the former Borussia Dortmund manager was not prepared to imperil by starting Keita in the games against the top six opponents. Despite that notion, the substantial part of the last campaign was down to Jurgen Klopp’s mismanagement – deploying the midfielder through the unconventional left-wing position.
The Liverpool boss discerned the committed mistake and handed him the much-needed start during the trip down to the South Coast to face Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Southampton. The hosts opened the scoring through Shane Long and dominated for a larger part of the game until the Reds found the equalizer. Trent Alexander-Arnold picked out Naby Keita, who used his head to divert the ball inside the back of the net, inside the six-yard box.
The midfielder was selected to start four consecutive games, including one against Chelsea at Anfield, where he had N’Golo Kante on his strings. During this one month, the number 8 also bagged two goals, with one apiece against Porto and Huddersfield.
These set of moments appeared to have started the ball rolling for the midfielder following an expensive move. But, he faced yet another setback. Jurgen Klopp was visibly upset on the sidelines when the Guinean was brought down by Ivan Rakitic’s aggressive tackle during the first leg of the Champions League Semifinals in Nou Camp.
Rigorous scans took place and the manager confirmed the midfielder’s unavailability to take part in the remaining campaign and cast doubts over his presence for Guinea in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
In the face of the injury, Guinea’s former manager Paul Put, who faced sack over a major issue of playing the injured players in the starting eleven, pressurized Naby Keita to take part in the continental tournament. When the condition became bad to worse, the midfielder pulled out of the squad before the culmination of the group stages.
The 24-year-old did not take part in Liverpool’s pre-season tours and returned for the Community Shield clash, which took place on 4 August. Naby Keita came on as a substitute in the second half and nearly scored the winner.
Days before the Premier League opener against Norwich City, Keita felt the recurrence and tore his muscle, ruling him out for at least a month. Even though the midfielder has been hapless, he’s not assured a spot in the starting eleven.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have produced first-rate displays this season and it could take a lot to displace those two from the starting lineup for Naby Keita. Besides, Klopp has preferred the midfield of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Goerginio Wijnadum over the last few games. The trio has looked exhausted after a certain period in the last three games and doors will open for Keita at some point. The midfielder needs to take the opportunity coming his way and produce good performances in the defensive and offensive areas of the pitch to justify his expensive price tag.
As of now, Jurgen Klopp is patient with Naby Keita, who has no shortage for talent and yet remains unproven, thanks to his fatal luck.