Naby Keita may only be 21 years old but he is already a key player for RB Leipzig. After a few injury concerns following his arrival at the eastern German club, the Guinea international has hardly been out of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side on their way to the Bundesliga summit.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Keita speaks about his high-flying team, his first weeks in Germany and the upcoming challenge at SC Freiburg.
bundesliga.com: Naby Keita, Leipzig are top of the table after 11 games. What is the secret to your team’s success?
Naby Keita: Solidarity with each other and our team spirit, not just within the team but the entire club – you can always feel it. We meet up in the morning and go our separate ways at 6pm. In between then we have a lot of fun, be it in training or at meal times. Everyone helps each other. It’s a nice feeling and it makes us strong.
Watch: How Leipzig rose up through the leagues to reach the Bundesliga summit.
bundesliga.com: Are you actually aware of what your team is achieving week in week out as a promoted side?
Keita: Yes, of course, but we’ve earned it because we work hard every day. Everything is working well for us.
bundesliga.com: All players seem to be playing with a lot of joy and passion.
Keita: That’s spot on. Whether it’s in training or in Bundesliga matches, we’re playing with hunger and zest. That’s definitely a mark of our play.
bundesliga.com: You joined Leipzig from Salzburg in the summer. How do you feel in Germany?
Keita: I was welcomed with open arms and I felt good straight away. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s fun. I love our attacking style of play. The atmosphere in the team is amazing but it’s like that at every level of the club. You sense that something big is happening here. Everyone wants to have fun, win all the time and keep improving.
bundesliga.com: Which of your team-mates has surprised you the most on the pitch?
Keita: Emil Forsberg. He is a top player with great technical ability. We also get along off the pitch. He’s always willing to help out the team.
bundesliga.com: From the outside you get the feeling that even a defeat wouldn’t disrupt your team. Do you share that feeling?
Keita: Absolutely. I’m convinced we’ll be even more hungry to get back to winning ways after our first defeat. We’ll show even more passion for it. It’ll be completely normal to lose at some point – that’s football and sport in general. Then it’ll be important to analyse the reasons for the defeat so that we learn from our mistakes and don’t repeat them in the next game.
Watch: Find out which players feature alongside Keita in our in-form Official Fantasy Bundesliga top 5.
bundesliga.com: What role has coach Ralph Hasenhüttl played in this success?
Keita: Ralph Hasenhüttl has definitely had a big role to play. He is someone who places a lot of value on communication. Even during games, he talks to us a lot to give us support or some tactical pointers. He’s also intense in the changing room just before kick-off to try and motivate us. He always finds the right words; he knows exactly how to reach out to a player. He is always in a good mood and is a reason for the positive atmosphere. There’s a real sense of mutual trust.
bundesliga.com: You now face a second away game in a row at Freiburg. What sort of game can we expect there?
Keita: We know that our opponents will always take us seriously. It definitely won’t be an easy game at Freiburg. Above all, the most important thing is to remain calm and level-headed. Both teams know each other well from the second division. Of course we’ll try to leave Freiburg with the three points.
bundesliga.com: What is the aim for Leipzig from now until the winter break?
Keita: To have a worry-free season, but we have a tough run until Christmas. We’ll try to keep this successful streak going and then we’ll see where we’re at during the winter break.