After a frustrating 12 months on Merseyside it appears Naby Keita is finally finding his feet at Liverpool. The last season or so has been tough on both the player and the club, with the midfielder struggling to replicate the form that saw him become one of the most coveted young players in world football.
He signed on the dotted line in August of 2017, but would spend one more year in the Bundesliga. After waiting for a full season to see him in action in the Premier League, anticipation could hardly have been higher for the Keita's arrival.
He initially matched all expectations, putting in a couple of excellent performances to get the campaign underway.
Then things just nosedived. He was a non-factor during the tail end of 2018 as Liverpool's form picked up, with Fabinho establishing himself in the side to ensure there was one less midfield spot up for grabs.
Injuries were a huge concern, as was his general lack of form.
Keita did start to show some flashes once again as the season came to a close, but an injury in the first half of the Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona at the weekend halted any momentum he had picked up.
He went to the African Cup of Nations half fit, something that didn't aid his cause in pre-season.
Liverpool fans hoped he would kick on after having a year to settle in but there was little sign of such a change in fortunes over the past few months.
Until now that is.
After finally getting an opportunity in the team over the past couple of weeks, Keita has been massively impressive. Whereas before Liverpool supporters had to look very closely to come with any positives from his performances, he is now standing out as a real talent.
He found the back of the net against Bournemouth (as well as getting a fantastic assist) at the weekend and he repeated that trick in tonight's massive Champions League game against Red Bull Salzburg. It was his opener that broke the dead lock, arriving into the penalty area in a fashion we don't see all that often from Jurgen Klopp's other midfielders.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) December 10, 2019
That was not the only impressive aspect of his performance. Keita was assured in possession, playing positive forward passes. He was also more than willing to carry the ball himself, completing four dribbles.
Naby Keita vs Salzburg
- 86 Minutes Played
- 1 Goal
- 2 Chances Created
- 4/4 Dribbles Completed (100%)
- 8 Duels Won
- 1 Clearance
- 1 Foul Won
- 2/3 Tackles Won (66%)
- 5 Recoveries
Another great game 🇬🇳 #LFC #YNWA pic.twitter.com/fqxUh9Uygf
— Lucas (@LFC_Lucas17) December 10, 2019
Back-to-back Man of the Match awards for Naby Keita! 😎 pic.twitter.com/RdDwhyJTG4
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 10, 2019
With Liverpool facing an intense schedule over the next month, this change in form could hardly have come at a better time.
As good as their squad is, a player like Keita is exactly what they are lacking. Their midfield is talented and industrious, but they can lack that bit of magic at times. He has it in spades.
Almost two and a half years after his initial signing, Liverpool supporters are finally getting to see how good the former Leipzig player can be.