The first man to wear the Liverpool number 8 shirt since the retirement of Steven Gerrard, Naby Keita finally arrived at Anfield this summer, for a transfer fee reported to be £52.5m. The Reds thus became the Guinea international’s fourth professional club across four different European countries.
It all started for Keita as a teenager with French second-division club FC Istres, where he impressed despite the club 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, and still only 21, he was named Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Year.
It wasn’t long before another Red Bull-sponsored team, Leipzig, swooped for a player who was starting to alert scouts across Europe. The club was newly promoted to the German Bundesliga, and Keita was to have a huge impact almost immediately. He scored a last-minute winner on his debut, against Borussia Dortmund, and scored eight in total 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 Keita’s contract but with the move agreed – subject to add-ons related to Leipzig’s league finish – for the following summer. That move has now been made, with Keita 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.