Liverpool agreed a reported club record fee of £48 million ($62 million, 51.9 million euros) for Guinea international midfielder Naby Keita with German side RB Leipzig on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old will join the Premier League side in time for next season.
Here are five things on the young star.
Not many Guinean players have made it into the top tier of British football though Keita is not the first to play for Liverpool as Titi Camara turned out for the Reds for the 1999-2000 campaign before moving to West Ham. However, it was thanks to another Guinean that Keita got the chance to make his way in European football. Hardman defender Bobo Balde — who played with distinction for Celtic from 2001-09 — organised a talent-spotting contest in the French city of Marseille, which Keita attended almost out of desperation after being rejected by Le Mans and Lorient. Ligue 2 side Istres saw enough to take a punt on him for the 2013-14 season and he displayed enough raw talent for Red Bull Salzburg to sign him after that campaign.
Ivorian legend is his Toure de force
Balde may have been his saviour but for Keita it is Manchester City’s Ivorian four-time African player of the year Yaya Toure who is his role model — they are both box-to-box midfielders — and whom he wishes to emulate in terms of being acknowledged as the continent’s greatest player. “I want to be the best African footballer,” he has said. “My idol from Africa is Yaya Toure… he’s strong, works hard and has made it to the very top.”
Growing up in Conakry, he and his brothers played football in the street but equipment was hard to come by and being from an impoverished background food and other household goods were always the priority when his mother went to the shops. However, that didn’t prevent the football-mad Naby from being the proverbial bull in a china shop as he told www.bundesliga.com last season. “I always looked forward to going to the supermarket with my mother,” he explained. “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!”
Small in stature, he has earned comparisons with two-times Champions League winner Brazil-born Portuguese pocket rocket Deco and been tagged as ‘The African Deco’. Indeed he has now dropped his middle name Laye and inserted Deco instead. Like Deco, Keita makes up for his lack of physical presence with wizardry and artistry on the pitch, creating scoring opportunities and also equally adept at scoring a few too.
Feet on the ground
Despite his success Keita has not forgotten where he came from and he likes nothing better when he returns to Guinea than to chat about football with his childhood friends with whom he used to kick the ball about with in the streets of Conakry. His dream evening too is to have dinner with his mother and he acknowledges how fortunate he has been to succeed where so many African players’ dreams founder saying if he had not made it he would “probably, like my father, repair motorcycles.”