THE confirmation of a deal being agreed for Liverpool to sign Naby Keita on July 1, 2018, brought to an end one of the longest-running transfer sagas of The Reds’ summer.
The deal, rumoured to comprise of the Guinean’s £48million release clause plus a £7m premium to secure his services, makes Keita Liverpool’s club-record signing — though there are reports that could yet be surpassed before the Thursday deadline.
Alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Liverpool now possess the three most expensive African players of all time. We spoke to African football expert MANSOUR LOUM to find out more about both The Reds’ record signings this summer.
How would you describe Naby Keita as a player, is there anybody he’s similar to in world football?
Keita is a technically-skilled player. His biggest strength is his vision and his ability to find the key pass, one that will make a difference in the final third. He can destabilise opponents with his dribbling and he scores goals too.
In Guinea he is nicknamed Deco because of his profile and his way of playing reminds many of the Portuguese legend. He has the ability to run the game from a deep position before making a move higher up the field.
Mohamed Salah is a player that can play multiple positions but what is seen as his best in Egypt?
Salah is the type of player able that can play anywhere in the attack thanks to his speed and his eye for goal. His best performances have come when played on the right-hand side, as he can cut in towards the centre and use his left foot.
He has the ability to get in behind defenders, or play off the shoulder of the defence with his movement. He has also performed very well in a second striker role by occupying the space for a more conventional front man. He is great at reading the path of balls in good time to leave opposition defenders trapped.
How do both players tend to perform for their countries?
With the Guinean national team, Keita is the key element. He controls the game, setting the rhythm and starting attacks often from a deeper position, continuing the play through the midfield and often even finishing the move. He seems to take the initiative and grows in confidence game after game. When he is not at his level, the rest of the team suffers for it.
For Salah it’s a little bit different in the sense that he is less essential to the Egyptian team. But he is a real plus thanks to his activity on the right side and his ability to destabilise the opponent when he cuts in from the right to a central position. He is a formidable forward even though since the arrival of Hector Cuper as the national team coach, the side play more defensively, which corresponds less to Salah.
Where do they both rank in terms of African players?
Both are definitely in the top five after last season. In my opinion, Keita is close to becoming the best African player. He is a complete player who has progressed a lot and will improve further this season with RB Leipzig in the Champions League.
Salah is also one of the best African players though he doesn’t stand out as much as Keita and Mane. But when Liverpool get Keita in, the club will have three of the top five African players at the moment.
Do you think both will prove to be a good fit for Liverpool?
Salah is in the same style as Mane and Philippe Coutinho; bright players and difference makers. He can interchange with his teammates so he has everything to complement the other forwards.
For Keita, he also has the ability and the intelligence to blend into the collective. If he has a defensive midfielder alongside him to perform the more defensive tasks, he will be able to fully express himself.
“Naby Keita is of course right up Jurgen’s street.”
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 29 August 2017
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