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FRESH SUMMER CHANCE FOR KEITA; Opportunity knocks to solve three-year puzzle.

Byline: PAUL GORST LFC Correspondent paul.gorst@reachplc.com @PTGORST

ABY KEITA was setting Liverpool trends long before he became a player at Anfield.

NIt's nearly three years since the Reds moved to bring him to the club as an opening gambit of PS57million was turned away by RB Leipzig.

July 2017 saw the Reds return to the negotiating table for an all-action midfielder Jurgen Klopp had made a primary target that summer. But a second bid of PS66m was rejected with the Bundesliga side seeing Keita as key to their hopes of a good run in the Champions League.

The final nine the 19/20 act as a towards a run in Klopp's for By the end of that month, Liverpool had decided to walk away, fearing they were being priced out of a deal.

A return to the Champions League for Klopp's Reds had seen Liverpool embark on a bigspending summer. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was set to join Mohamed Salah later that summer with the pair costing the club more than PS70m.

Andy Robertson also joined that month, but it was Keita whose potential arrival was exciting the collective fanbase the most.

Behind the scenes, the Reds continued to work on a deal with Leipzig before it was revealed on a late August Bank Holiday Monday that a transfer agreement had been struck.

Keita and Liverpool would get their wish. He would become a Reds player, the following year. He arrived at Melwood in July 2018 as a PS52million player at a time when the Reds were spending huge sums.

Across the calendar year, around PS250m was spent on recruitment as the likes of Virgil van Dijk (PS75m), Alisson Becker (PS65m) and Fabinho (PS40m) all arrived.

It was the initial offer for Keita in the summer of '17 that signalled the intent from club owners FSG, though. Nearly three years since that opening of negotiations, it is fair to suggest he is yet to truly justify the hype.

games of campaign can springboard sustained team Keita.

Injury has been the key issue behind that, of course, with the third most expensive player in Anfield history struggling with a succession of untimely setbacks across the last two years.

And as Klopp's side have laid waste to the Premier League, Keita has been on the periphery, starting just four games this term.

There is undoubtedly a player in there. He is a player capable of cutting opposition defences to ribbons with his dribbling qualities and ability to measure the telling pass.

The frustration for fans - and one that must be ten-fold for the player himself - is that he hasn't been able to truly build up a head of steam in his two years in Liverpool red.

Yet still, the intrigue and interest persists around Keita.

Those in attendance at Anfield earlier this week noted a sparking Keita with a spring in his step.

Given three months to get himself fit and sharp, the 25-yearold was said to be one of the Reds' standout performers as they geared up for the return to competitive action with a 6-0 thumping of Blackburn on Thursday.

The hope is that the break will have done Keita the world of good. A chance to rid himself of any lingering niggles and get himself up to speed with the intensity required to shine in a Liverpool midfield.

A big few weeks await everyone at Anfield, but from a personal perspective, the final nine games of the 19/20 campaign can act as a springboard towards a sustained run in Klopp's team for Keita.

made a primary summer. bid of of Keita in the that signalled from though. years of third player The final nine games of the 19/20 campaign can act as a springboard towards a sustained run in Klopp's team for Keita.

CAPTION(S):

|Naby Keita scores a goal during a friendly against Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Thursday (main picture); and goes on a run (inset left)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:PAUL GORST LFC Correspondent paul.gorst@reachplc.com @PTGORST
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 14, 2020
Words:663
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