Roy Keane has spoken with warm appreciation for Bukayo Saka and reckons the Liverpool transfer target has a huge future ahead of him, with Arsenal still hoping to tie him down to a new contract.
The Arsenal and England star – who turned 21 on Monday – has emerged as one of the first names on Mikel Arteta’s teamsheet. He has thrived since the Spaniard took charge at Emirates Stadium, finishing the 2021/22 season with 12 goals and seven assists.
His form has also earned him 18 England caps, with the Ealing-born star having a huge fan in Gareth Southgate.
Indeed, his character has come through a tough examination in recent times. He was the subject of racial abuse after missing England’s decisive penalty in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy. However, he has seemingly come back even stronger since then, much to his credit.
His form for Arsenal and England has won him many admirers in the game. Indeed, Jurgen Klopp reportedly is a huge admirer of Saka’s and would seemingly love to bring the star to Anfield if the opportunity arose. To that end, a report last month put paid to Liverpool prospects of a summer 2022 raid.
Liverpool, however, continue to keep a watching brief over Saka. His current deal now has less than two years left to run.
The star earns a reported £70,000 a week now, with Arsenal willing to double his wages. Despite ongoing negotiations, the two parties are yet to reach an agreement on a renewal.
Arsenal, though, remain in the driving seat. The player has shown no signs that he wishes to leave. That said, failure to reach the Champions League next season could give Arsenal something of a problem.
Roy Keane a huge fan of Bukayo Saka
Wherever his future lies, Keane admits he is a huge fan of Saka’s.
The Irishman is one of the most outspoken critics of many a Premier League star. Having set the bar so high himself as a player, Keane is well within his right to pick fault with some players.
Saka, however, is someone though that Keane really admirers and reckons the winger is adding new depth and wisdom to his game.
“Of course you do (need to have the maturity),” Keane said. “You have to be able to deal with the big occasions. Deal with the big crowds and big expectations.
“The big challenge for him over the years is can he kick on? Big contract and money. That’s where his family come into it.
“Every time I have heard him in interviews, he comes across really, really well. He has had big challenges with England and a lot of criticism that way.
“So, he has squeezed a lot into his short career. I like everything about him. I think if you want to play for the big teams, then he is capable of beating players and it looks like he can beat players easily. There’s more to come from him. But I really like the look of the kid.”
Could Saka one day replace Mohamed Salah at Liverpool?
There is no doubting Arsenal have a huge talent on their hands and tying him down to a new deal will be of utmost importance.
And as Keane states, he’s not only a great talent on the pitch, but he’s a well-rounded individual off it too. His personality came shining through in the recent Amazon Prime documentary series All or Nothing: Arsenal.
But a failure to secure a top-four finish this season could leave Arsenal with a big problem. Saka – who looks a shoo-in for England’s World Cup squad – deserves to be playing at the highest level. As such, he may well have ambitions of playing in the Champions League and if Arsenal cannot provide that, a problem may present itself next summer.
Liverpool will certainly be in the mix if Saka’s contract moves to within a year of its expiry. While they managed to extend Mohamed Salah’s deal to ward off his exit threat, at 30 years of age, his time at the absolute top will one day run its course.
Ultimately, Klopp may see Saka as Salah’s long-term replacement. Even with a year left on his deal, prising him from Arsenal though would not come cheap.
The Reds have also heavily invested in their forward line with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez arriving this year. But another big addition next summer, in the form of Saka, cannot be ruled out.