Naby Keita has paid tribute to Fabinho’s emergence at Liverpool following a slow start to life on Merseyside.
The Brazilian did not feature in the Reds’ opening eight games of the Premier League season as Jurgen Klopp opted to ease him into a change in intensity.
Assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders recently spoke of the difficulty he had keeping up with the speed and movement around him as a sole holding midfielder early on.
Introducing another no.6 beside him, usually being Georginio Wijnaldum, has since proven significant in helping him become one of Liverpool’s most influential players.
Keita told Liverpoolfc.com: “I’m very happy for him. At the beginning he wasn’t playing much but he worked hard, he never gave up and he was always there for the team. The last match [vs. Manchester United], he put in a great performance.”
“That’s what we’re here for – to work hard and try to earn our place in the team. Midfield is an area where we have a lot of options, so that means no-one wants to get injured or give up their place.”
“I wasn’t surprised at all by Fabinho’s performance. In training the coach is there for everyone and training is always good. It’s down to us to keep focused and play well in every match.”
Keita is no stranger to the difficult transition to English football having himself endured a mixed first season at Anfield.
Having started his Reds career the brighter of the two, Keita seemed to fall behind his fellow summer signing towards the end of 2018.
Whilst Fabinho was asserting himself as a reliable midfield foundation, Keita was struggling to hold down a starting spot.
Recent weeks, however, have seen the no.8 begin to tease the kind of attacking quality that lured Liverpool to his services in the first place.
In doing so, he has contributed to Klopp facing a midfield selection dilemma for perhaps the first time this campaign.