Could Naby Keita’s indiscipline stall his meteoric rise?

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The Guinea international has been sent off three times this season, and his disciplinary misdemeanours threaten to overshadow his talent


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Red Bull Leipzig are the emerging force in the Bundesliga after qualifying for the Champions League in their first season in the top flight, while breathing down the neck of eventual champions Bayern Munich for much of the campaign.

One of the players at the heart of Die Rotten Bullen's magnificent campaign was Naby Keita, but is his meteoric rise in recent years in danger of being overshadowed by his disciplinary problems? 

Joining from sister side Red Bull Salzburg that summer, the 22-year old was an instant hit and this put him on the radar, earning rave reviews globally. He's been nominated for both the Caf and BBC African Footballer of the Year awards, and was one of three African players named in this year's Goal 50.

Liverpool came knocking during the last transfer window, and ultimately met his release clause of £48 million and will now join next July.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp can be delighted with the signing of Keita, because he’s the kind of complete midfielder any team would want, considering his top-notch offensive and defensive attributes.

His ability to play through balls, make key passes, beat men with the ball at his feet and finish effectively mark him out as a rare breed of midfielder. These qualities are underpinned by Keita's high work rate, intercepting ability and tackling.

Indeed the Conakry-born powerhouse completed more dribbles than any midfielder in Europe’s top five leagues last season, and also had the highest number of interceptions and tackles too. It's a remarkable hat-trick of qualities.

Naby Keita Luca Waldschmidt RB Leipzig Hamburg Bundesliga 892017

Despite the talent Keita has been blessed with, he has been making a bad name for himself in recent months due to his on-field indiscretions.

His dismissal in the 5-4 penalty shootout loss to Bayern in the DFB Pokal in October was the third time he was given his marching orders in the space of seven games this season.

He was also sent off in Leipzig’s 2-2 draw at home against Borussia Monchengladbach, and saw red while on international duty in Guinea’s 4-1 mauling by Tunisia in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

In as much as Keita is widely celebrated, this recent spell doesn’t augur well for his prospects of blossoming into Africa's greatest midfielder of his generation, with a lack of discipline threatening to undermine his talent.

RB Leipzig Bayern Bundesliga

Worryingly for Keita, who was also filmed fighting with a teammate in training earlier this season, he doesn't appear to be learning his lessons.

Having served his three-game suspension from the dismissal against Die Fohlen, he returned to action in a crunch tie against Borussia Dortmund on October 14 and was booked for a rough challenge on Nuri Sahin within 15 minutes.

 

Despite his contributions, Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had to substitute the Guinean at the restart for fear of him being sent off again as he was lunging into needless tackles and tempting a second yellow.

In the cup game against Bayern, he was dismissed after just 53 minutes when he cynically tugged Robert Lewandowski, which was his second bookable offence of the night. The game ended 1-1 at full-time, forcing extra time before the reigning Bundesliga champions triumphed 5-4 on penalties.

In the latter instance, Keita's recklessness directly cost Bayern.

RB Leipzig did not allow Keita to move to Anfield this season because he was simply too valuable to their Bundesliga title challenge and their desire to make a good impression in their maiden Champions League campaign.

Should he recover from an injury sustained against Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend, he'll need to be at his best again on Tuesday evening as Leipzig are away at AS Monaco in a must-win group stage clash. Heading into the clash, Leipzig have four points, two more than their opponents, but two fewer than FC Porto in second place. Group leaders Besiktas are on 10.

If the German minnows' UCL campaign does extend beyond Christmas, the former RB Salzburg man must be more disciplined when going into tackles and making other challenges...before his suspensions begin to have more of a detrimental impact on Leipzig's campaign.

Naby Keita | 2017-18 Bundesliga stats

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Similarly, looking ahead to next season, the Premier League isn’t a forgiving place, with strict referees overseeing physical affairs.

Failure to improve his behaviour is unlikely to make Klopp regret his purchase-Keita is that good-but it does hint at the player's immaturity, and raise doubts about his ability to reach the very pinnacle of the sport.

If he can iron out this glaring weakness to his game, then Keita could be destined to establish himself as Africa's top star.

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