Liverpool-bound Naby Keita has hit the headlines for allegedly using a forged driving licence in Germany, but he is RB Leipzig’s midfield engine who one day hopes to play for Barcelona.
The 22-year-old box-to-box midfielder was a key component in Leipzig’s stunning first season in the Bundesliga when they briefly kept Bayern Munich off top spot before finishing second in the 2016/17 campaign.
He has had a tough start to this season following the August announcement that he will join Liverpool for 2018/19.
Keita was sent off three times in seven games for club and country including a yellow-red in the German Cup, second round, defeat at home to Bayern Munich last month.
He also fell offside with German police when it emerged at the weekend that he is accused of forgery after twice using a fake Guinea licence in his attempts to obtain a German driving permit.
He is appealing a reported fine of 415,000 euros (£366,731, $480,009).
Keita was born in Guinea’s capital Conakry on February 10, 1995 and as a child used to enjoy kicking anything round — often with expensive results.
– Broken lampshades –
“I always looked forward to going to the supermarket with my mother,” he told Bundesliga.com.
“There were a lot of round things to play football with.
“Unfortunately, there were also things like lampshades, which got broken.
“My mum always says that shopping with me was very expensive.”
While still a teenager, he left his hometown club of Horoya AC to join FC Istres in 2013 when the club were in France’s second division.
He netted four goals and provided seven assists in 23 appearances during an impressive Ligue 2 campaign which attracted the attention of Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg in 2014.
The move yielded five titles as he helped the club win the Austrian league and cup double in 2014/15 and again in 2015/16, when he picked up the Austrian Bundesliga’s Player of the Year award.
All five trophies were achieved while he was still just 21.
He made his debut for Guinea in 2014 with a goal against Mali and he helped his country reach the quarter-finals of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Keita’s impressive two-year spell in Austria saw him move for 2016/17 to newly-promoted RB Leipzig, despite admiring glances from some of Europe’s top clubs.
“He’s one of the best I’ve worked with in 20 years of professional football,” enthused Leipzig’s director of football Ralf Rangnick.
Keita made an immediate impact at Leipzig, coming off the bench to score the winning goal as his Bundesliga debut finished with a shock 1-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund.
– Barcelona dream –
Alongside playmaker Emil Forsberg, who set a new German league record of 17 assists in a season, Keita was outstanding in Leipzig’s midfield as they finished second to Bayern Munich.
Keita netted eight goals and provided just as many assists in his 31 league games last season and has so far managed one goal and assist in his eight Bundesliga games in 2017/18.
He has never been shy about his ambitions.
“I wish for good health, that I am the best African footballer in the world and that I play one day for Barcelona,” he told the RB Salzburg’s club magazine before his move to Germany.
Keita is a central midfielder comfortable in either half of the pitch.
He does not shy away from crunching tackles or fulfilling his midfield duties and is popular with team mates.
“Naby is friendly and approachable. It’s hard not to get along with him,” said Rangnick.
His arrival at Anfield will see him fight with Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson for a place in Liverpool’s midfield when Jurgen Klopp — one of Keita’s many admirers — finally gets his wish to bring him to Merseyside.