Naby Keïta 21 Midfielder RB Leipzig Guinea
Perhaps the most exciting product yet of all the players who’ve moved from one Red Bull club to another, Naby Keïta is a 21-year-old central midfielder from Guinea and now represents RB Leipzig after switching from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer. Newly promoted Leipzig are doing just fine in the German Bundesliga. You might have heard.
2016 has been…
Keïta’s year. Reported interest from Arsenal was brushed off in the spring as he signed a contract to keep him at/with/under Red Bull until 2021, and the former FC Istres midfielder has been flying ever since. By May he was routinely spoken of as the best player in the Austrian Bundesliga, a key man in what became Salzburg’s third consecutive double.
In June he moved to Leipzig and took the step up to Germany in his stride. A couple of months in, he’d really started to have a real impact – sometimes a match-winning one – in the league’s not-so-surprise package. Leipzig were breathing down the necks of FC Bayern, and Keïta was the lungs that allowed it to happen.
Although he’s playing in a slightly different range of midfield positions to last season, his hard work and glorious football ability are constants. A huge part of his game is about space and he’s great at finding it. His football intelligence is off the charts, as are his energy levels, and he’s still got plenty of bite as well.
The balance is still there. The ability to drift past an opponent is still there. The first touch, the sporadic goals, the trademark strides forward – they’re all still there. But what makes Keïta stand out as a potentially noteworthy Bundesliga star is the way he seems able to play the game at his own tempo, saving the lethal drop of the shoulder for when it’ll be truly devastating.
As far as box-to-box midfield play goes, Keïta has the raw materials to achieve the lot. He can still drift out of a game a little too readily, but when he’s in a rich vein of form like he was this autumn, his class really comes to the fore.
Big things, we reckon. It’ll be no mean feat to shake off that nasty habit of having quiet spells, not least because of the step up in standard from Austria to Germany, but if he can continue to act as a leader by example at Leipzig then he’ll be playing in continental competitions again next season.
His club future is relatively settled. With a Bundesliga season under his belt his suitors next summer could be many, but with four years left on his contract Keïta should be at Red Bull’s flagship club until at least this time next year. After that, the sky might well be his only limit.
B Still mustard
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