Sadio Mane insists there are “no doubts” over Naby Keita’s importance to Liverpool
While Keita has shown flashes over his ability over the past year with the Reds, the Guinean is yet to fully establish himself at Anfield.
The nature of his long-awaited move from RB Leipzig—delayed a year, due to the terms of their agreement—heightened anticipation and expectation of the player who inherited Steven Gerrard’s shirt.
Since his £52.75 million switch—a deal which makes him the club’s third-most expensive signing—Keita has made just 34 appearances, of which 22 were starts, scoring three goals and assisting one.
This has been due to a series of injuries, including the adductor problem which ruled him out of the Champions League final, and was then aggravated at the Africa Cup of Nations and on returning to action for Liverpool.
Keita is currently undergoing an individual training programme to aid his recovery, but there is still no timeframe on his return.
Some may have already lost faith in the 24-year-old, but in an interview with Complex this week, Mane has stressed that he has “no doubt” his “little brother” will succeed on Merseyside.
“Since our days at Salzburg, he was always a good man, and a good friend to me,” Mane explained.
“He’s such a great player, so I think everyone will see once he gets over his injures how important he will be for this club. I have no doubts about him!”
There is, of course, a key caveat there in that Keita is expected to come good “once he gets over his injuries,” with the regularity of setbacks for the midfielder worrying.
Keita rarely missed a game for Leipzig or Red Bull Salzburg through injury, but has already spent over 100 days out since joining the Reds in 2018.
The hope will be that, given his positive fitness record at previous clubs, this is simply a lack of fortune, rather than any long-term concern for Jurgen Klopp and his medical staff.
Fully fit and firing, Keita would be one of the first names on Klopp’s teamsheet, and a midfield comprised of him, Fabinho and any of Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be hugely impressive.
Klopp could provide a further update on Keita’s fitness in his pre-Newcastle press conference this week.