In the summer of 2017, Liverpool FC paid a then-club record fee of £52.75 million for Naby Keita. The midfielder had been scouted for a full 12 months prior to his unveiling, during which he had notched nine goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga. He was given the daunting task of filling the No.8 shirt previously worn by Steven Gerrard, and there were serious expectations of him due to being proclaimed as the best midfielder in Bundesliga by Jurgen Klopp and courted by the likes of Barcelona. Unfortunately, Keita was unable to live up to these expectations due to a series of injuries and a lack of momentum. He was part of the squad that delivered the holy grail in 2019/20, winning the 19th league title in record-breaking fashion. However, he only managed 521 league minutes in the Covid-hit 2020/21 campaign, and was substituted after just 41 minutes of Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final with Real Madrid. He featured in 40 of the Reds’ 63 games in all competitions in 2021/22, averaging 52.2 minutes on the pitch per outing, but his defining moment came in the dying minutes of the Champions League Final against Real Madrid, when a speculative shot with the outstep of the boot sailed hopelessly over and wide of Thibaut Courtois’ goal. Despite Jordan Henderson describing him as “extremely humble and gentle” and “one of the most technically gifted [he had] ever trained with”, Keita’s injury woes ultimately became unfeasible for Liverpool, and a clean slate looks to be the best route for everyone involved.

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