Jurgen Klopp is convinced Naby Keita won’t have a disciplinary problem in the Premier League after revealing Liverpool did checks on why the £54million midfielder received four red cards for RB Leipzig and Guinea last season.
His final year in Germany was marred by dismissals against Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich and Mainz having already agreed a deal in advance to move to Anfield. He was also sent off in a World Cup qualifier against Tunisia in October.
Klopp confirmed: ‘We watched them again, it was just a millisecond late here, too excited there. Young players do that.
Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool fans will see a calmer Naby Keita this season at Anfield
‘It was not that he was overly harsh in his challenges, just that he was too ready to win it. Last year was normal with a few highlights and a few unlucky red cards.’
Keita, 23, earned rave reviews for a sparkling debut against West Ham last weekend and will be important again for the club’s first away game of the season at Crystal Palace on Monday night.
His manager is sure there is a sense of relief from the Guinea international that he’s finally in England having known 12 months ago he’d be heading to Anfield. Leipzig insisted on striking the deal with Liverpool that he stayed in Germany for a final season.
Klopp explained: ‘We wanted him desperately but we accepted the wait. We didn’t fight, but he wanted to come immediately. When somebody tells you, “it can happen in a year” nobody in the world likes that message.
He earned four red cards across all competitions last season for RB Leipzig and Guinea
‘And so he struggled a bit with that, though not too much. Last year was not his best, the season before was completely next level.
‘It was worth waiting for him, for sure. Usually you don’t get a player like him. All the other clubs are not blind, so we were lucky we could do very unusual business a bit early.’
Despite losing Emre Can in the summer, Klopp has an impressive array of different midfielders to choose from; Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Adam Lallana, Fabinho, Shaqiri and Gini Wijnaldum besides the box-to-box Keita.
The German thinks the common theme among them is the ability to think quickly with space always so tight in the midfield area.
Keita (right) struggled with disciplinary issues but Klopp is confident they are now solved
‘In the end they need to feel comfortable in small spaces. You need to be smart in defending because the space is too big to defend without the brain. You need to see the right distances and stuff like that, you need to be 100% fit because it’s the most demanding position on the pitch.
‘Naby, we all have no clue how good he can be. He’s too young to judge him. What can we say?
‘He’s a very smart footballer, very stable. A fantastic overview, that’s true. Sometimes he shoots better, sometimes not that good, depends on the pitch and the ball and the wind and all that stuff.’
After adding £170million of talent to the squad that reached the Champions League final, Liverpool are considered by bookmakers as the biggest challengers to Manchester City this season.
Klopp offered sympathy for Kevin De Bruyne after suffered a serious knee injury in training
A knee injury to City’s star man Kevin De Bruyne could be seen as advantageous to Klopp but he has offered sympathy to the Belgian international, whom he once tried to sign at Borussia Dortmund.
‘You hear about Kevin and you think, “Wow”. No one needs that. It’s awful news. To be honest he was never my player but I love this player. I wanted him at Dortmund but Jose (Mourinho) at Chelsea didn’t give him!
‘Only one year in 500 you can play (the same) 11 players through. Leicester a few years ago, (Christian) Fuchs throwing 700 balls in from the left!
‘For all the other things you need these 24 players. City have Ilkay Gundogan as an option, Bernardo Silva as an option, young (Phil) Foden as an option. They’re used to what they do and obviously they will be strong again. I wish Kevin from the bottom of my heart that he’ll be back as quick as possible.’