If Liverpool can manage to sign RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keïta this summer, it will be a move at least a year in the making, as the 22-year-old today admitted he has been a target of a number of English clubs and that he was approached about a potential move by Liverpool last season.
He also met with representatives of Manchester City and Southampton, and spoke with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The jump from the Austrian Bundesliga to England, though, would have represented a massive step up for the then 21-year-old, and in the end he moved from RB Salzburg to Leipzig.
Keïta told Germany’s Welt that he believed last summer was too soon in his career to make such a massive move, and newly promoted Leipzig in Germany seemed a more reasonable next step—one that went better than anyone probably could have expected for both player and club.
Now, following a season where he came in second in Bundesliga player of the season voting, a move to England is again possible, though with Keïta likely to cost upwards of £50M this summer after moving for just £13M last summer, Liverpool are likely wishing they pushed for him last year.
They also know that waiting for next year may not be an option, as another season in Germany that sees him put in the kind of performance he did in 2016-17 could see the likes of Bayern Munich or Barcelona move for him. There’s also the question of where missing out on him would leave Jürgen Klopp’s plans.
Liverpool’s goal this summer is to expand the matchday squad to 18 payers capable of competing for the title in England and pushing deep into the Champions League knockout rounds. The goal isn’t depth options but to bring in clear starting-calibre players for a push next season.
Keïta, by all reports, is one of the three players targeted to do just that, and this summer, Klopp and Liverpool don’t want to wait—they don’t want to put things off until next season yet again. No matter what happens next, waiting another year for Keïta isn’t an option.