Jürgen Klopp and Michael Edwards have made an excellent recruiting team in their time together at Liverpool. The duo, supported by a word class collection of data analysts, have amassed a transfer success rate that is the envy of Europe. From the world’s best defender and goalkeeper in Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson, to the Premier League record scorer and a Ballon d’Or finalist in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, the frequency with which Liverpool has been able to unearth world class talent is startling.
The jury is still out, however on Naby Keïta, the gifted midfielder whose performances at RB Leipzig broke the club’s scouting metrics to earn a £52m move to Merseyside in the summer of 2018. It has been stop-start for the Guinean at Anfield so far, as persistent injuries and difficulties adjusting to the physical Premier League have robbed him of anything resembling rhythm. There have even been rumors of the club contemplating a switch for Wolves’ Ruben Neves (which, I mean…).
Meaning that the lengthy layoff amidst the coronavirus pandemic might have done Keïta in particular a world of good, allowing for potentially a full recuperation without pressure to return to action. Club staff are said to be buzzing about the 25-year-old’s showings in training, including an outstanding performance in the 6-0 behind-closed-doors friendly against Bradford.
It is good news for Liverpool supporters who can anticipate a player eager to prove the doubters wrong and reward Klopp’s faith in him:
“Overall he is a coach that gives you confidence and he is the motivating factor before a match, but you’ve also got to be motivated on the field,” Keïta said of the German manager to the club magazine.
“When you see him on the sideline and you’re on the field, it’s as if he’s playing with you and that gives you a lot of desire to do better.
“He’s always there for his players, he’s almost like a best friend but he’s a coach who can communicate with all his players.
“When I arrived I had to try to settle in and be able to integrate with the team. I respect his choices, so I was there to work every day.
“He is somebody who is able to give you explanations on the field, and that helps a lot and when you play of course you don’t ever doubt yourself. That’s coaching and he sees everything.
“I think I have now improved a lot, apart from my injuries which have kept me out of several matches.”
Keïta is expected to be in contention for a starting berth when Liverpool continue their procession to the title against in Sunday’s Merseyside derby. The hope will be that the talented midfielder can finally put it all together to chalk another one in the win column for Michael Edwards.