- Keita joins Leipzig after consecutive league and cup doubles with Salzburg.
- Still 21, the youthful signing fit in with Rangnick's transfer policy.
- Keita plans to become "Africa's best player".
A celebrated player in Austria, Naby Keita was voted player of the season with FC Salzburg in 2015/16. The 21-year-old Guinea midfielder helped steer his team to a second successive league and cup double last term, and now he is aiming for continued success with Bundesliga new boys RB Leipzig…
Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick has long pursued a philosophy of nurturing young talent, making outstanding footballers out of raw potential. With Keita, Rangnick has once again enlisted a player cut from this cloth. Only four months on from his 21st birthday, the Conakry-born midfielder has already accumulated a wealth of experience despite his tender years.
Two domestic doubles
"Naby Keita contributed tremendously this past season to re-double the success of Salzburg, where he was an absolutely key player," said Rangnick of the diminutive midfielder. Keita played 81 competitive games for Salzburg over the last two seasons in all competitions, scoring an impressive 20 goals in the process. With Keita in their team, Salzburg won the Austrian Bundesliga in back-to-back seasons, and made the Round of 32 of the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League.
Keita was instrumental in these successes, with last season's league haul of 12 goals and eight assists particularly impressive. Now capped 17 times by his country, Keita swapped French second-tier side FC Istres for Salzburg in 2014. A leader on the pitch, Keita quickly shot to prominence with his distribution, reading of the game and work ethic, catching the attention of a number of Europe's top clubs.
However, it was the Saxony club that won the race for his signature. "We are very pleased that Naby chose us and that he wants to take his next steps in Leipzig," continued Rangnick. "He fits perfectly with the club's dynamic, he is outstanding technically and tactically and his character in our young team will be an asset." Keita is the seventh player to have to have swapped Salzburg for sister club Leipzig, following Massimo Bruno, Peter Gulacsi, Stefan Ilsanker, Nils Quaschner, Marcel Sabitzer and Benno Schmitz.
Keita has a healthy dose of self-confidence, too. When asked about his ambitions by Salzburg's club magazine, he answered: "I wish for good health, that I am the best African footballer in the world and that I play one day for Barcelona." Keita may stand just 1.72 metres tall, but his goals are lofty. If he can continue his progress at the Red Bull Arena, Leipzig are in for an exciting season.
Tobias Schild/Stuart Telford