Premier League • England

Merson admits Liverpool ‘shocked’ him with Keita decision and names ‘out of the box’ best player

Naby Keita, Jurgen Klopp Liverpool v Real Madrid May 2022

Paul Merson has slammed Naby Keita but added Liverpool did nothing to help him prove his worth by playing him in the Champions League final.

The Guinea midfielder arrived at Anfield with great expectations following his explosive form for RB Leipzig. And while he has had his standout moments for the Reds, he has failed to truly deliver.

Injuries have plagued him throughout his time with Liverpool, with the 2021/22 season his most consistent.

In fact, Keita‘s tally of 40 appearances was seven more than his next-best, which he posted in his debut campaign in 2018/19.

However, Merson remains unconvinced on the 27-year-old. Indeed, he admitted that Liverpool did nothing to change his mind by bringing him on against Real Madrid in Paris.

“Naby Keita’s signing didn’t really do much for me,” the pundit wrote in a column for Sportskeeda.

“I was a bit shocked when they brought him on in the Champions League final. Liverpool needed a goal, and he’s scored one goal in about a million games.”

Keita subsequently made it into Merson’s “not good enough” category based on Liverpool’s gruelling 63-game, quadruple-chasing campaign.

Merson continues Liverpool assessment

Elsewhere, Merson picked defensive midfielder Fabinho as his best player of the season in Jurgen Klopp’s side. He labelled the Brazilian an “out of the box” pick, but a player who was missed more than anyone else when not in the team.

“If Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah do not play, Liverpool still manage to win,” the pundit wrote. “Fabinho, however, is a necessity in Jurgen Klopp’s team.

Liverpool‘s midfield isn’t particularly strong, and Fabinho holds his team together admirably.

“He’s an absolute must in the midfield three and has played pivotal roles in their best performances this season.”

Fabinho and Keita have played together on occasion, with captain Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones among the other midfielders looking for game time at Liverpool.

Liverpool have Keita decision to make

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita

Merson’s comments on Keita come amid the Guinean approaching a crossroads in his career.

His most consistent season for Liverpool so far has come as he enters the final year of his contract. Klopp claimed in April that, at the time Liverpool poached them, Keita and Thiago were the “best midfielders in the Bundesliga by a distance”.

As such, the Reds have some serious thinking to do over whether to offer the former a new contract.

Recent reports have claimed that Liverpool will offer to extend Keita’s terms given his recent exploits.

Naby Keita hinted to get new Liverpool contract

Naby Keita hinted to get new Liverpool contract

Jurgen Klopp to give Keita a new contract at Liverpool after change of heart

However, they will hope that his injury problems are now behind him and he can become a driving force in Klopp’s midfield.

Keita has enjoyed some memorable performances for Liverpool. The 5-0 rout of Manchester United comes to mind, as does his performance away at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Still, he has not delivered such displays often enough – partly due to the competition in midfield but more so due to his lack of rhythm.