Naby Keïta returned to the Bundesliga in the summer of 2023, joining Werder Bremen after five seasons with Liverpool. - © IMAGO/Nordphoto
Naby Keïta returned to the Bundesliga in the summer of 2023, joining Werder Bremen after five seasons with Liverpool. - © IMAGO/Nordphoto

Who is the former Liverpool midfielder and Guinea captain at Werder Bremen?


The captain of the Guinea national team Naby Keïta produced arguably some of his greatest form in the Bundesliga, where he is now back with Werder Bremen.

Stats correct as of 31 December 2023

Naby Keïta
Age: 28 (born 10 February 1995)
Club: Werder Bremen
Position: midfielder
Country: Guinea (54 caps, 12 goals)

Key stats 

Keïta was born in the Guinean capital Conakry in 1995 into a household of little means. Football equipment was not at the top of the family's shopping list, but that failed to stop a young Keita from playing. "I always looked forward to going to the supermarket with my mother," he explained. "There were a lot of round things to play football with. Unfortunately, there were also things like lampshades, which got broken. My mum always says that shopping with me was very expensive!"

Keïta joined hometown club Horoya AC aged nine, but seeking a career beyond his homeland at 16 he made the 6,000 kilometre journey to France, lodging with future international teammate Guy-Michel Landel, who was on the books at Le Mans UC 72. Unsuccessful trials at FC Lorient and Le Mans followed, but Keïta was unperturbed, and when Guinea defender Bobo Balde arranged a talent-spotting tournament in Marseille two years later, Keïta sufficiently impressed Ligue 2 outfit FC Istres, who signed him that November.

He spent just one season with Istres before moving to FC Salzburg in 2014. After two seasons in Austria, Keïta arrived at the Red Bull Arena in the summer of 2016 as an Austrian Bundesliga champion with big ambition. He was quick to adapt to life across the border and scored eight and assisted a further eight in his first season in Germany, adding a further six goals and five assists in his second season with Leipzig.

That was enough to convince former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp to sign him for Liverpool, though his return of two goals in each of his first two seasons and three in his third were not quite up to his previous standards. He was nevertheless a Champions League winner with The Reds, and was part of the team which won a first Premier League title in 2020.

Part of Guinea's run to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015, he was named Guinean player of the year and, in 2024, will feature in his fourth Africa Cup of Nations.

Watch: Naby Keïta's 5 best Bundesliga goals

Plays a bit like: Jamal Musiala

When at his best, Keïta just cannot be dispossed. A bit like Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala, the ball appears to be glued to his legs as he dribbles his way around opponents, making space for a shot or an assist - the likes of which he has delivered in huge quantities throughout his career. Given the way he plays, it is  easy to see who his idol was when he was growing up. "I want to be the best African footballer," he proclaimed way back in 2016. "My idol from Africa is [Cote d'Ivoire captain] Yaya Touré. He is strong, works hard and has made it to the very top."

Did you know?

Born "Naby Laye Keïta", those with a keen eye may have noticed that his middle name has been replaced with "Deco" on the player's social media channels. Like the two-time UEFA Champions League-winning midfielder, Keïta is diminutive in stature, standing 1m72 tall. His early passes and chipped through-balls are reminiscent of the Brazil-born Portuguese, and after plundering 12 goals and seven assists in his last season at Salzburg, comparisons with the former FC Porto and FC Barcelona are quite justified.

What they are saying

"We are very pleased that Naby Keïta has chosen, despite many requests from European clubs, to take his next steps in Leipzig. He fits our young team perfectly, with his dynamism, outstanding technical and tactical skills, and his character." - former Leipzig Sporting director Ralf Rangnick

"It will be intense, and fast. There is more pressure, on and off the pitch. I'm a team player who gives my all for the team and tries to meet the tactical orders of the coach […] I joined RB because it's an exciting club with great potential. I didn't want to move to a big Champions League club immediately. It's still too early." - Keïta upon joining Leipzig in 2016.

“Naby's an exceptional footballer, what a player he is. Maybe one or two injuries too many just hindered him from getting really through. But if you go through – and I would really recommend that – if you go through our really big games of Liverpool FC you might be surprised how often Naby was in the starting line-up and how often he played incredibly well." - Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp.