Naby Keita sparked the brawl in the middle of the pitch when the whistle was blown to end the first-half, but unfortunately for the Guinea international, the referee kept his cards in his pocket on this occasion. Instead, he had a word with Keita, who escaped punishment, but failed to complete the game as he injured his hamstring during the second-half.
Strangely, the red card could have saved Keita's season, as he now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines and will miss some crucial games for Leipzig as they look to climb back into the Bundesliga top four. The Red Bull-backed club sit fifth in the table, with inconsistent form seeing them fail to recapture the magic of last season when they shocked football fans to finish second behind Bayern Munich.
Part of the reason for this decline is due to Keita's form, with the midfield talisman dropping a gear following the announcement of his £48 million move to Liverpool. The Reds agreed a deal for the 23-year-old last summer following his breakthrough campaign in the Bundesliga. The agreement meant Keita would spend another season with Leipzig before moving to Anfield in the summer of 2018.
Since the deal was announced, Keita does not seem to have been the same player as he was beforehand. The half-time fight against Frankfurt was completely unsurprising given the way he has been playing, with his frustration often evident on the pitch. In fact, it was a red card against Borussia Monchengladbach in the fourth game of the season (the first red card of his career) where the decline began.
Keita had provided an excellent assist for Jean-Kevin Augustin in the first-half, but his second-half turned disgusting with a high challenge seeing his boot end up in Christoph Kramer's face. The referee had no choice but to issue a straight red card.
The midfielder missed the next three games, and has only provided one assist since the suspension in September. Keita's expected assists number supports the idea that he's declined, standing at just 1.88 xA for this season after he contributed seven assists and eight goals in 2016-17.
Having missed just three Bundesliga games all of last year, Keita did not feature in five of Leipzig's matches thanks to suspension and being benched by head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl before his injury. Hasenhuttl has been less than impressed by his recent form, telling SportBild that he needs to be more consistent on a game-to-game basis.
“Naby is not as consistent this year as last year. It’s important that he brings his expectations back to normal levels," he said.
“I’m not one who wants to motivate with fear. I don’t immediately get the whip out in the classic sense and I don’t kick the players non-stop.”
"He has not had the same impact that he did last season," Rolfes told Kicker. "Too often, he has been undisciplined and has harmed his team."
It seems as if Keita's mind is already focused on his move to Liverpool, and that has had a negative impact on his performances. Leipzig decided against cashing in earlier and selling the midfielder to the Reds in January, and are now suffering because of that with Keita injured and their hopes of a top-four finish in jeopardy.
Keita still has the ability to be a superstar for Liverpool, and this time on the sidelines should give him a chance to reflect on his disappointing season and turn things around before his move to Anfield.