Naby Keita was Jurgen Klopp’s first landmark signing at Liverpool but the midfielder’s time at Anfield has consistently been blighted by injuries despite his obvious talent
Jurgen Klopp has offered a hint over the future of the player he made the biggest signing in his managerial history. The Liverpool boss believes Naby Keita has a “bright future”, after finally appearing to resolve the injury issues which have blighted his time at Anfield.
When the midfielder agreed to sign for the Reds back in 2017, the fee of £ 52m was the all time Liverpool club record at the time, and the most Klopp had paid for a player at that point. But now almost four years later, there have still been NO signs of a new contract for the Guinea international, even though his current deal only runs until the summer of 2023.
That means he is free to speak to any overseas club in just EIGHT months time. And if no agreement is reached, then it suggests Liverpool will look to cash in on the player this summer. Keita has only just turned 27, and has finally shown glimpses of the form which prompted Liverpool to make him the most expensive player in their history at that time in 2017.
If the club does not extend his deal, then the only way they can get a significant return on that £ 50m + fee is if they do try to offload him this summer. Klopp suggested the midfielder has struggled with his ability to stay fit, and said he did not like to talk about his improved run of games and form, just in case “Somebody tells me ‘Naby cannot play’.”
And the manager hinted that consistency problems have been at the core of Keita’s problems, which suggests that the club are still concerned about his playing record. In four years, he’s only made 70 Premier League appearances, with many from the bench.
And Klopp said: “When Naby was fit and Naby could get some rhythm he was always really good, unfortunately he could not get as much rhythm as he wished and as we wished in the past. Maybe that’s over now (knocks wood). Hopefully the future is bright for him, he is a great player.
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“The year before (Keita signed) it was Keita and Thiago were the two best midfielders in the Bundesliga by a distance. So to first get Naby and then Thiago, was obviously a good idea. ”
The ‘maybe’ though, indicates that the manager is not totally convinced that Keita is over his injury problems, and if that is the case, it leaves Liverpool with a big decision in the summer.
His form in recent months, including a huge performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup final, will have alerted other clubs, and improved the prospect of getting a decent return on their outlay.
And the Reds are now a club whose expertise in transfer analysis allows them to identify trends in players, including their ability to stay fit. Klopp had Gini Wijnaldum who never missed a game, and would hope to find someone similar to anchor his midfield, with James Milner coming to the end of his time at Anfield, and skipper Jordan Henderson now in his 30s.
He has been an admirer of Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham for a long time, and should he be available in the summer then Liverpool are likely to be all in on the England star. But with Erling Haaland certain to move, the German club will resist attempts to take a second star in one summer, which would make his capture difficult in the extreme.
Keita though, is running out of time to prove to Klopp that he can play consistently, and that suggests a move could happen in the summer.