Naby Keita has played his last home game for RB Leipzig. The midfielder should have gotten a final send-off this Saturday against Wolfsburg, but his fourth red card of the season means he will play no part.
Keita had been instrumental in Leipzig's second-placed finish last season, qualifying for the Champions League after winning promotion to the Bundesliga just 12 months earlier. The 23-year-old quickly became a fan favourite following his move from Red Bull Salzburg in 2016, but will get no home farewell before his £48 million move to Liverpool.
Reds legend Phil Thompson has backed Keita to give Liverpool the competitive edge they have been missing from their Premier League campaign, calling him a 'nasty little charcter' on Sky Sports in April.
While Keita should bring bite to the Liverpool midfield, it also could come at a cost. After missing three of Leipzig's early-season games following a straight red card against Borussia Monchengladbach, the 23-year-old was sent off again for a mistimed challenge on Robert Lewandowski to help Bayern Munich progress in the cup in October.
That was his third red card in seven games for club and country after also seeing red for Guinea in World Cup qualifiers. With Guinea knocked out of the competition, national captain Keita pushed Tunisia's Mohamed Amine Ben Amor as his frustrations spilled over into his performance.
In February, he escaped another suspension after a melee broke out during a game with Eintracht Frankfurt. Eight players were booked in total as those from both sides fought after the whistle had blown for half-time. Keita received a telling off from the referee and was lucky not to be send off for instigating the argument.
Off the pitch, Keita has also courted controversy, making headlines for a bad tackle on team-mate Diego Demme which forced Leipzig to abandon a training session, while he was also fined by German authorities for using forged driving documents.
There is no doubting Keita's ability as a game-changing midfielder. Even though his performances declined in the first half of the season from his breakout 2016-17 campaign, the Leipzig talisman has scored six goals and assisted seven more in the Bundesliga. He also proved his worth in the Champions League with goals against Monaco and Benfica despite Leipzig exiting at the group stage.
Even after the bad tackle on Demme in training that left his team-mate with a bruised knee, he is a popular figure at Leipzig. Forward Yussuf Poulsen thinks he is part of a rare breed of footballers who can raise their game even when their team is playing poorly, and scores the kind of goals that Liverpool fans should be excited about.
"I think that most of the fans of Liverpool already watched him play. He is a superb player on a very high level," he told Omnisport.
"He shows what he can do with the ball even if it's not going well for the team at this time. His last goal against Hoffenheim where he fakes out three people. He hit the post and then the ball went in.
"There are not many players in the world who can do that kind of thing. He is one of the few and not only the fans, but also his team-mates should be looking forward to that."
Having played in the Premier League and Bundesliga with Middlesbrough and Eintracht Frankfurt, former Norway international Jan Age Fjortoft knows that Keita could be in for a difficult time in the English top flight as he faces aggressive players who will look to stop him from making his trademark runs in the centre of the park.
"His disciplinary record hasn't been great, but maybe it's the right time, the right decision to leave Germany and start fresh again in England," Fjortoft told Goal.
"In England, he will learn quite quick that there are other people who will put him down if he plays aggressively.
"On the other hand, I think he will be a very good player for Liverpool. He will cover a lot of ground. I think he's a very good signing for Liverpool."
Keita will get a fresh start at Champions League finalists Liverpool next season, where his aggression could possibly turn them into genuine title contenders.
If he can avoid the wrath of English officials, he will be a sensational signing. He will just need to work hard to keep his name out of the referee's notebook and ensure he makes headlines for the right reasons.