Could Naby Keita Be The Perfect Midfield Partner For Emre Can?


When you think of Emre Can, what do you think of?

The workhorse in midfield whose displays often go unnoticed by the majority of Liverpool fans? Or do you think of that goal he scored against Watford?

If it is the latter I suggest you stop reading here.

Can is one of those players that frustrates you when he plays. He can be described by fans as “world class” and “rubbish” all in the space of 90 minutes of football.

For me though it is important that Liverpool do all they can to hold on to the young German midfielder this summer.


With the fight for places in the Liverpool midfield starting to hot up, manager Jürgen Klopp needs to get the balance right if he continues with his 433 system.

With the arrival of Mohamed Salah at Liverpool this summer, it looks like Philippe Coutinho is going to drop deep into the number 8 role, so that leaves the question of, who is going to partner Can in midfield.

With Jordan Henderson eternally injured, Gini Wijnaldum would be the obvious choice to partner Can in midfield, but what if Klopp manages to persuade RB Leipzig into selling their poster boy Naby Keita.

For me and many Liverpool fans, a midfield trio of Can, Keita and Coutinho would be a dream come true.

For this to happen Liverpool and Klopp would have to overcome two massive hurdles.

  1. Leipzig are in no rush to sell Keita. They are currently trying to build a dynasty in Germany: a team to match the might of Bayern Munich.
  2. Liverpool cannot guarantee Keita Champions League football this season just yet, unlike Leipzig, who have already qualified for the group stages.


I know in the past I have complained about players moving from being a big fish in a little pond to being a big fish in a big pond, but I do not think the move from Germany to England would faze Keita the way it could other young players.

He has shown last season in the Bundesliga that he can compete with the big boys, and at times left defences of both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund spellbound with his mazy runs. He has all the ability in the world and is a player I know Klopp could turn in to a future Ballon D’Or winner.

Last season in the Bundesliga, Keita scored eight goals, created 41 chances, and made seven assists. He completed 1103 passes with a pass accuracy of 81%. He won 43% of his average duels and while he only had a shot accuracy of 37%, this is something that Klopp would need to work on with him. He also completed an average of four defensive actions per game. Not bad for a 22-year-old midfielder who no one heard of before last season.

Pairing both Keita and Can as a midfield duo and leaving Coutinho to roam at the top end of the pitch, I believe would have the same effect on Liverpool as N’Golo Kante’s move to Chelsea last season.

Having Keita in the team would allow Can to play his favoured position, the No 6 role, and having Can guarding the back four would help stop Liverpool having one of the worst goals conceded records of the top teams in the Premier League.

Keita is not the type of player who wants to sit back. He will move forward with the Liverpool attack and has the ability and the eye, even at such a young age, to get back into position if an attack breaks down.


Klopp and Liverpool have been an admirer of Keita for a couple of seasons, and there have been reports that they are are willing to part with £70 million to sign the young midfielder.

Keita, has a decision to make. Does he stay in Germany with Leipzig and help them create the dynasty that they want to, or does he move to a side that is capable of progressing his career with a world class manager at the helm?

Leipzig also have a decision to make, do they sell Keita this summer for €80 million or do they try and hold on to him knowing that teams next summer can activate his €50 million release clause?

If they sell Keita, what kind of message does that send out to other teams that are sniffing around their players, and to the players themselves.

The capture of Keita is going to be a tricky one. As I have already mentioned, Leipzig have already said no to Liverpool’s advances and unlike most teams, when a German team says no, they don’t mean come back with a higher offer and we’ll do business, they mean no.

To get this deal across the line, Klopp will have to sweet talk Leipzig and show them how much €80 million could help them enhance their team to be able to compete in all competitions next season.

So now it is up to you, Klopp and FSG, let us hope you can get this one across the line, because I fully believe having a player of Keita’s quality in Liverpool’s midfield could be the difference between finishing first or fifth in the Premier League next season.

By Aaron Cawley

Featured image by Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

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