He was supposed to be the midfielder who would inherit Steven Gerrard’s number eight shirt as one of the beautiful game’s multi-functional rising stars in midfield. A true hybrid with strong attributes as a defensive midfielder, midfield runner, playmaker, interception machine, and a ceaseless hub of furious energy; there is much to admire in Naby Keïta. Far too dynamic and creative to be lazily compared with N'Golo Kanté, Keïta could easily seal a spot in midfield even with the mercurial Philippe Coutinho to consider. We have our Hayao Miyazaki in Coutinho, but Jürgen Klopp wanted to secure our Isao Takahata to create midfield magic as those legendary directors created innumerable classics with Studio Ghibli.
The offers for Keïta were both ambitious and generous, essentially underlining a commitment to a concerted push for improvement under Klopp’s aegis. However, reported bids of £57 million, £66 million, and a third bid rumoured to be as high as £75 million still did not move RB Leipzig from a firm stance of keeping star players for at least one more season. Only Paul Pogba, who moved to Manchester United last summer for a world record fee, would have been a more expensive midfield purchase than the 22-year-old Guinean international—ambition clearly was not the barrier that foiled this potential summer signing.
There is a £48 million release clause that can be activated next summer—provided there is no new deal at his current club or a more attractive suitor—that Liverpool can hope to benefit from. In this era of bloated and shameless transfer spending, allocating John Stones money for such a player could even dare to be considered as shrewd in some quarters. By now, it should be clear that these musings are about Liverpool moving on from Naby Keïta. No, Merseyside’s finest will not be “nabbing Naby” this summer.
What now? Move on, of course. Where? Onwards to “pursuing other options” and hopefully signing the unique midfielder next summer. In Batman Returns, Penguin sagely told Batman that “things change” when Gotham’s knight in the shadows pointed out that one of the most revoltingly resplendent of villains actually wasn’t the mayor. Naby Keïta is not and almost certainly won’t be a Liverpool player, but things can change.