Ian Rush has come to the defence of an expensive Liverpool signing after his performance midweek led Dietmar Hamann to label him “not good enough for Liverpool.”
Liverpool took complete control of group B in the Champions League on Tuesday night when sinking Atletico Madrid 3-2 in Spain. The Reds started quickly and took an early two-goal lead, with their second coming via a spectacular Naby Keita volley.
However, the Guinea international was at fault for both of Atletico’s goals that followed, being beaten too easily in the build-up on each occasion.
Keita has never truly settled on Anfield following his £52.75m transfer from RB Leipzig in 2018. And in the aftermath of the victory, former Reds midfielder Hamann called Keita’s attitute towards the defensive half of the game into question.
“I’ve got to say, I think Keita was at fault for both goals,” Hamann told talkSPORT. “I know he’s had some injuries, but I don’t think he’s good enough for Liverpool.
“If you score a goal like he did, you should be full of confidence. You have to do your defensive duties and I get the feeling he just wants to play with the ball and when Liverpool have got possession.
“You just can’t do that and he’s not good enough to do that. The way he got beaten for the first two goals was just too easy.”
Keita was hooked at half time in favour of Fabinho, though club legend Ian Rush has now come to Keita’s defence. The former marksman acknowledged Keita’s errors but insisted that can be explained away by his relative lack of experience.
“There was a lot made of Naby Keita’s performance against Atletico,” said Rush (via the Mirror).
“We saw the best and worst of the Guinean midfielder but people forget he’s still pretty inexperienced.
“He scored a fantastic goal but then Atletico’s two goals came after he was beaten too easily in the build-up. Jurgen must have realised he needed more experience in this game and that’s why we saw Fabinho come on at half-time.
“I put it down to a lack of experience from Keita. I see him as a player with a lot to learn and a lot to improve on. Fabinho brought a lot more to the team once he came on.”
For clarity, Keita is 26, though is still well short of 100 appearances in red despite being on the club’s books for over three years.
Salah tipped to ‘do a Ronaldo’
Meanwhile, former Liverpool defender Glen Johnson believes Mohamed Salah has every chance of emulating Cristiano Ronaldo and maintaining his best form into his mid-30s.
Salah turns 30 next June and debate has raged as to whether Liverpool should offer a bumper new contract for someone about to enter his 30s. The Egyptian talisman’s current deal expires in the summer of 2023.
Johnson spoke about how Liverpool’s owners will view the situation, and claimed Salah is more than capable of performing at an elite level well into his 30s.
“It’s a hard one. Any contract is about timing. Of course he is within his rights to be paid on a par with anyone (in the Premier League),” said Johnson.
“But Liverpool have done their business right and he’s got 20 months left on his contract and at the end of that he will be 31 and do they want a 31-year-old player, whether he is that good or not, on x-amount hundred grand a week? I don’t know. But on form the way he is still playing they definitely need to try to keep him.
“You see the way he plays, you can see he looks after himself and trains right, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes on to have a long career like Ronaldo.”