Naby Keita teased Liverpool fans with a fresh preview of his star quality on Thursday with an all-action performance in RB Leipzig’s Europa League win over Napoli.
The Guinean served as a formidable obstacle in the way of the Italian side’s widely-credited attacking force, oozing class as the box-to-box asset he was advertised as to Liverpool.
A 3-1 win for the Bundesliga club saw Keita dictate the midfield throughout and provide an exhibition of both his defensive attributes and attacking ambition.
The midfielder proved key in halting attacks before quickly reversing the momentum to reiterate his reputation as a link man that promises to make him a perfect fit in Jurgen Klopp’s system.
Besides initiating attacks from deep, the 23-year-old rarely shied away from breaching the final third himself and taking aim when afforded the time and space.
It marked pleasing reassurance that Liverpool will be well-equipped to fare without Emre Can if the German decides to join Juventus when his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Though Keita doesn’t represent a direct replacement, his arrival would partially compensate for the loss of Can’s multi-faceted approach.
Keita’s notable forward-thinking mindset was a standout feature in Turin in terms of foreshadowing his value in a Liverpool setup that demands a swift and clinical transition from defence to attack.
If he wasn’t striding beyond players or breaking up attacks, he was flexing the perhaps less-coveted passing expertise that the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be relishing the chance to exploit.
His dominance against opposition boasting top-level talent also bodes well in the Reds’ objective to compete consistently on both the domestic and European stage.
From his coverage of every inch of the pitch to his impact on both sides of the game, Keita issued a glaring reminder of why Liverpool battled so hard to acquire his services.