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Liverpool face Naby Keita decision after Daniel Sturridges crazy prediction – Liverpool Echo

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Almost three years ago, Naby Keita made his debut for Liverpool in a 4-0 win over West Ham United at Anfield on the first day of the 2018/19 season.

Jurgen Klopp wasted no time before integrating the Guinean into his starting line-up, with his immediate selection capturing the general excitement surrounding his future on Merseyside, having agreed to a move from RB Leipzig 12 months earlier.

Fabinho – who was signed at the beginning of the summer – began the contest against the Hammers on the bench and didn’t become a regular starter until closer to the Christmas period.

Keita was even given Steven Gerrard’s no.8 shirt after being deemed to be the player that Liverpool would build around; he was perceived as a ‘phenomenon’ by the club’s data department and seemed to be the perfect midfielder for Klopp given his offensive skill set and well-rounded game.

Daniel Sturridge – his teammate at the time – stated: “I haven’t seen a midfielder like him for a while, he is something different. It’s crazy. The things he can do with the ball – he can defend, he can pass, he can dribble, he is fast, he is strong. He has got everything.”

The English striker captured his unique qualities, but Keita would go on to share similar fortunes with the man who praised his skills while Klopp transformed Liverpool from top four chasers to title winners.

Sturridge was considered as one of the best around some years ago, bagging 22 non-penalty goals in his best Premier League campaign for the Reds, which has been bettered only four times since by Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, and Harry Kane on two occasions.

Just 25-years-old at the time of Klopp’s appointment, Sturridge should have been one of the players for Liverpool to form a shape around, but he simply wasn’t available enough for a system to be tailored to his strengths.

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The Reds boss had to begin improving his new team and gradually – despite his obvious qualities – Sturridge was almost left behind as Klopp moulded Roberto Firmino into his no.9 before pairing the Brazilian with Salah and Sadio Mane.

With two years left on his deal and now aged 26, Keita has followed a comparable path to the former Liverpool striker; a solid performer whenever he’s on the field, but that hasn’t happened often enough for Klopp to use the Guinean international as a pillar for his side.

Instead, Keita has appeared sporadically while gaining some minutes from the bench, before missing multiple games usually due to injury niggles, forcing Klopp to adapt.

Ultimately – given his contract situation – the Reds have an underlying question to ask themselves.

Presenting the tricky midfielder with a fourth season in England to become a regular starter seems to make sense given the perks of a full pre-season, but if nothing changes, he will enter the final 12 months of his deal next summer.

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His market value will have decreased as a result, meaning that if Liverpool did eventually decide to sell him in 2022, the financial loss from the £50m that was initially paid for his services could be quite drastic.

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A new contract also makes sense given Gini Wijnaldum’s departure and how he’s still technically experiencing what are typically prime years for a midfielder between the ages of around 25 and 29, but he started just seven league games in the season which has just concluded.

The year before, Keita started just nine times in the Premier League, making any contract negotiations difficult for the club to navigate as his availability has not improved with time.

A sale could be made this summer, but the current financial climate combined with Keita’s lack of game time could prove to be problematic when it comes to acquiring a desirable transfer fee.

What should Liverpool do with Naby Keita? Let us know in the comments below.

Sturridge himself eventually left on a free, but the club have too much value tied up in Keita for that to be an acceptable outcome.

Regardless of whether he’s retained, given a new contract or sold to a new club, there is a fair amount of risk attached to each of the avenues that Liverpool could explore.

The Reds have operated as the masters of minimising risk in the transfer market in recent times, but there is no obvious path to take when it comes to Keita’s future.

Nobody knows what the club will do just yet, but the situation surrounding the man who was set to transform the Anfield midfield as Gerrard’s heir appears extremely delicate.

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