The first player to wear Liverpool’s number 8 shirt since the retirement of Steven Gerrard, Naby Keïta arrived at Anfield last summer for a transfer fee reported to be £52.5m. They thus became the Guinea international’s fourth professional club across four European countries.
It all started for Keïta as a teenager with FC Istres of the French second division, and he impressed there despite them suffering relegation in his one and only season in the first team. A move to Red Bull Salzburg followed, where in two seasons the improving young midfielder won successive Austrian league-and-cup doubles. At the end of that second year, aged only 21 he was named Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year.
It wasn’t long before another Red Bull-sponsored team, Leipzig, swooped for an individual who was starting to alert scouts across Europe. They were newly promoted to the German Bundesliga, and Keïta was to swiftly have a huge impact. He scored a last-minute winner on his debut, against Borussia Dortmund, and a further seven goals as Leipzig finished second only to Bayern Munich and qualified for the Champions League in their first season in the top flight. Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool were quick to act, meeting the £48m release clause in Keïta’s contract but with the move agreed – subject to add-ons related to Leipzig’s league finish – for the following summer. That transfer then took place with Keïta joining on the back of a season in which he scored 10 goals but received no fewer than four red cards for club and country.