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BBC AFRICAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR - GUINEA - NOMINEE - Naby Keita

Naby Keita RB LeipzigEmbed from Getty Images

 

African Footballer of the Year 2017: Naby Keita profile

Naby Keita may have started the 2016-17 season as an unknown but he ended it with his name in the Bundesliga's team of the year - a public poll in which the 22-year-old received the most votes of any midfielder.

RB Leipzig were certainly the surprise package of last season - the Bundesliga debutants finishing in second place - but their Guinean midfielder ran them close.

Just five minutes into his league debut, Keita - an unheralded purchase from Leipzig's Austrian sister club RB Salzburg - scored an 89th-minute winner against Borussia Dortmund to set the tone for the season.

In total, he netted eight league goals - among them a goal of the season contender - while also providing seven assists.

But it is Keita's all-round game that truly impresses.

A box-to-box midfielder who is damaging at both ends of the pitch, he has been described by an opponent as being like "two players".

The fleet-footed Keita is a player most coaches would love to field.

An expert at breaking up play, he also has the physical power and vision to then drive past opponents. 

He registered more dribbles than Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben in Germany's top flight last season - to either score goals or make them.

It is little wonder his manager at Leipzig described him as "indispensable" and his talent as "just insane".

The Conakry-born star impressed so much that Liverpool agreed an African record transfer fee of at least £48m to secure his services in July 2018 - with Leipzig later saying they would not have sold him but for the triggering of his release clause.

Keita is primarily on the list for his club exploits because Guinea found the road to the 2018 World Cup in Russia too tough, even if the midfielder did score in qualifiers against Libya and Tunisia.

 

23 Nov 2017
(BBC Sport UK)

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