Few players in recent years have arrived at Liverpool with the hope and expectation of Naby Keïta in 2018, a full year after the club agreed a delayed deal to sign him from RB Leipzig for more than £50M.
His three seasons since at Anfield have been, to put it mildly, disappointing. Add up his injury record, lack of impact on the pitch, price tag, and that Liverpool were so desperate to sign him they were willing to let Leipzig retain him for an extra year to get the deal done, and Keïta has to go down as the biggest transfer bust of the Jürgen Klopp era.
Despite that, the Liverpool manager says the Guinean midfielder, now 26 years old, remains in his long-term plans and will have a chance to turn things around as he nears four full years since the Reds agreed his transfer.
“Naby he trains really well in the moment he looks really good in training,” Klopp said when asked about Liverpool’s number eight. “This year we’ve needed stability but in my opinion the long-term future of Naby Keïta is here.”
As Klopp sees it, injuries at other areas on the pitch and Liverpool’s struggles have put him in a position where his best chance at winning is to stick with his most experienced and match-tested midfielders, and that has made it difficult to fit Keïta in.
It may well be the case, and it’s not difficult to imagine Keïta would have seen the pitch more often if a fully fit Liverpool side were regularly dominating games as they were last season or the year before. Still, it’s not as though Keïta’s struggles to stay fit and find his best form are new to this season.
Still, as unlikely as Keïta delivering on his promise in season five since the club signed him might seem, stranger things have happened in football and unlike the fans Klopp gets to see the player every day in training.
“This year we never had the base to make two or three changes in midfield,” the manager added. “You need stability in football the other teams are too good for you to just make changes and say maybe we can win like this.”