Naby Keita is making headlines for all the wrong reasons after Jurgen Klopp has put full confidence in him

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Naby Keita was hooked before half-time after Jurgen Klopp put his full confidence in him in Liverpool’s biggest game of the season … the midfielder had done nothing expected of him in a miserable loss at Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp’s enthusiasm stood out when he explained about a team selection in which one eyebrow occurred.

There was no Thiago Alcantara, after his assured showing in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Arsenal. Nor was there Roberto Firmino, whose presence in Liverpool’s European matches is almost taken for granted. However, there was a place for Naby Keita and Klopp to gush in his assessment.

“ I (couldn’t) avoid him with all the training performance and that’s the result of it, ” said Klopp. ‘Naby brings in special things. Real Madrid is marking and defending, so we need dribblers, people who love this situation and who can turn around to make the next situation a big advantage.

Naby Keita failed to take his chance in Liverpool's starting line-up against Real Madrid

Naby Keita failed to take his chance in Liverpool’s starting line-up against Real Madrid

“That’s what Naby’s job is different from defending: shooting, fighting… all these things.”

Klopp has tremendous confidence in the Guinea International, a man who once held the distinction of signing Liverpool. The German was so determined to bring in Keita, Liverpool paid £ 52 million for him in 2017 and were prepared for him to get an extra 12 months at RB Leipzig.

When you watch Keita’s clips on the internet, all of the qualities that Klopp holds dear are clear. But if you cut his career at Liverpool, there have been only brief flashes of excellence, so this was an opportunity to change: in the biggest game of their campaign, it was time for Keita to shine.

Keita eventually made headlines, but they weren’t in the way Klopp had expected; four minutes before the end of the first half, with Liverpool on the ropes, puffing and squealing and clinging like a desperate boxer in a title fight, the No. 8 flashed on the replacement board.

The midfielder was changed four minutes before half time on a somewhat appalling evening

The midfielder was changed four minutes before half time on a somewhat appalling evening

The midfielder was changed four minutes before half time on a somewhat appalling evening

He slept with his head down. He didn’t look at Klopp as he trudged away, his manager didn’t look at him. There was no sign of injury for a player struggling with fitness issues – he only had 141 minutes in all competitions in 2021 – and Klopp confirmed his decision was tactical.

“It’s not a big story,” Klopp said afterwards. ‘I don’t like it (asked). He wasn’t alone. I could have made a few more changes at the time. ‘

But he chose Keita, and the fact that it happened so close to the interval illustrated Klopp’s exasperation. All the things he wanted to see – the running, the fighting, the pressing and the dribbling – was replaced by slowness. He started on the periphery and never got off it. The breaking point came when he took distance from Toni Kroos in the 36th minute.

With space and time, Kroos pinged another ball forward, Trent Alexander-Arnold was mistaken and Marco Asensio stole Real’s second goal. It was just as poor a performance as Liverpool have performed in Europe under Klopp’s watch, listless and full of mistakes.

Jurgen Klopp's Champions League hopes are on the brink after a 3-1 defeat in Madrid

Jurgen Klopp's Champions League hopes are on the brink after a 3-1 defeat in Madrid

Jurgen Klopp’s Champions League hopes are on the brink after a 3-1 defeat in Madrid

On a night when Liverpool needed calm and calm on the ball, those in Red moved it around like it was a hot potato. It was inexplicable and might have quenched their hopes of winning silverware.

It should be emphasized that Keita should not be held solely responsible for what happened.

“These are the things I don’t like about the job.” Klopp continued. ‘You do that and it is as if one player is responsible for the performance in the first half. Naby was not responsible for that. ‘

This is true. But after three years, we are still waiting for his presence at a game of this magnitude. Liverpool cannot afford to wait for him forever.

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