Liverpool announced the £52.75 million signing of RB Leipzig playmaker Naby Keita in August 2017, fending off the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the process. The Guinean international officially became a Red in July 2018. Leipzig had refused to sanction a deal for the then 22-year-old until his release clause came into effect the following summer, so the Reds paid a premium price to secure his services one year in advance.
News of his acquisition, greeted with rapturous acclaim, delighted LFC keyboard warriors the world over. Touted a statement of intent, this was a marquee signing. Whilst far from the finished article, fans hoped Keita would fill the gaping void left by the legendary Steven Gerrard. Hence the excitement.
Klopp’s midfield also lacked goals and creativity. So the highly-rated Keita – who offered both in abundance at Leipzig – was seen as the perfect fit.
So what happened?
Naby Keita is talented – that’s a fact. But he’s had a slow start on Merseyside and injuries (a plethora of them) have unfortunately played a big part.
Numerous muscular strains and the odd knock here and there have undoubtedly hampered his rhythm. However, the former Leipzig star is not the only Liverpool player to be plagued by injury. Indeed, Adam Lallana, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri are just three such examples.
The former RB Leipzig and RB Salzberg man has made just 34 league appearances (14 from the bench) since his arrival, culminating in a meagre 3 goals and 2 assists. It’s a bizarre record considering all the hype when the Guinean joined. Even so, Klopp’s Liverpool are yet to lose a Premier League fixture featuring Keita – a peculiar paradox indeed.
So is it merely a case of bad luck? Luck is imperative a high-stakes game such as football (that’s obvious). But supporters from his homeland have taken it to a whole new level (and that’s putting it mildly).
During the opening week of the 2019 African Cup Of Nations, rowdy Guinean youths violently expressed their frustrations at one of Keita’s relatives, alleging that he/she (their identity is unknown) had a hand in his injury woes through witchcraft! Yes, you read that right, witchcraft! The idea of sorcery is common in African society and football is by no means exempt.
‘Voodoo’ in football:
In fact, a case of ‘voodoo’ was reported in a Rwandan Premier League match between Rayon Sports and Mukura in 2016. Rayon player Moussa Camara removed a peculiar item – believed to be the result of some form of witchcraft – from the opponent’s six-yard box just a few minutes before the end of first-half. The action prompted a feisty reaction from the opposition goalkeeper and other rival players.
Before this odd act, Moussa had missed a number of point-blank chances. Then he noticed this beforementioned item (again its identity is unknown) placed in the opposition’s net. He acted swiftly, picked up the ‘charm-like’ item and took it to the touchline. The incident escalated into chaos forcing the ref to stop play. Ironically, Camara netted his very next opportunity!
Witchcraft was subsequently banned from Rwandan Premier League…
Allegations that Keita’s injury woes are down to witchcraft are, of course, baseless.
Patience is key:
Notwithstanding, Keita should be given more time. He is still arguably Liverpool’s most creative midfielder. He can play in tight-nit spaces under pressure and make decisive passes. However, his inconsistency – the result of numerous injuries (not witchcraft I must add!) – has made it difficult for him to showcase his full potential on a regular basis.
Time in football is short. If he fails to find his rhythm soon, fans will start calling for his departure. When he has been fit, however, Naby’s shown glimpses. His capabilities were evident in this season’s away games against the likes of RB Salzburg, Leicester, and Bournemouth. His slick passes, ‘crackerjack’ decision-making and slalom-style movement in the final third were for all to see.
He’s certainly worth our patience. And given that Klopp is still a keen admirer, Keita can be sure of an opportunities or two when football restarts.