Naby Keita agreed to sign for Liverpool towards the end of the summer transfer window, with the deal going through at the end of this season.
The Reds will pay £48m for the 22-year-old, matching the release clause in his RB Leipzig contract, though they have been told they can sign the midfielder this month if they pay another £13m to the Bundesliga club.
Following the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, there have been suggestions Liverpool could take up that offer and bring Keita to Anfield before the end of January.
But what would Keita bring to Liverpool if he was to move now? talkSPORT take a look at how Keita has performed for Leipzig since agreeing to sign for Liverpool at the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
* * *
Keita has made 13 Bundesliga appearances this season, starting 12 of those matches. RBL have won six of the games in which he has appeared, drawing three, and losing the other four.
He scored the first of his two league goals in gameweek three – netting against Hamburg – and recorded his only assist of the season (in all competitions) the following week.
Since signing for Liverpool, much has been said about Keita’s poor disciplinary record, and he was shown a straight red card in gameweek four – missing the next three matches – and has also picked up four yellow cards in the league.
Keita has an improved record in the Champions League, with two goals scored and just one yellow card in five appearances, while he also scored one goal in Leipzig’s two DFB-Pokal matches. RBL were knocked out of the cup in the second-round by Bayern Munich, losing a penalty shoot-out that Keita did not take part in as he was dismissed for two yellow cards inside an hour.
* * *
Despite not scoring or assisting as many goals as in 2016-17, Keita is actually performing at a higher level this season than last.
On a per game basis, taking only Bundesliga appearances into account, he is taking more shots (1.8), playing more key passes (1.5), and completing more dribbles (3.5) than he did last term. He also draws more fouls (2.2) and has fewer unsuccessful touches (1.2) per game than he did in 2016-17, though his rate of being dispossessed 2.6 times per game is higher than last year (1.6).
Furthermore, he averages more passes per game this season than last (50.9 to 45.9), and is actually more precise with those passes, completing 82.6 per cent of those attempted; last year he averaged 81.8 per cent.
* * *
Keita’s defensive work has not seen such a drastic improvement as his attacking play, though it is clear to see he has made strides with his ability as a ball winner.
From 2016-17 to 2017-18, his tackles per game have risen from 2.6 to 3.2, while he is also committing fewer fouls (2.3 in 2016-17 to 1.9 in 2017-18). This is a vital strength for a player coming into a team coached by Jurgen Klopp, who needs his midfielders to press the opposition and win the ball high up the pitch, without conceding fouls in the process.
However, Keita’s ability to intercept and clear the ball has decreased, as has the number of blocks he completes on a per game basis.
* * *
Considering Keita was viewed as one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga in 2016-17, it is incredible he has made quite an impressive improvement this season.
His strengths seem to make him a perfect fit for Klopp’s Liverpool, and even if the Reds cannot convince Leipzig to let Keita leave this month, the Anfield club will be getting hold of a truly majestic midfield player before the start of next season.