Naby Keita is expected to leave Liverpool when his contract expires this summer, in what will bring an end to his frustrating five seasons at Anfield.
Keita arrived from RB Leipzig in a £52.75m deal and was backed to make a big impact on the Liverpool midfield, but his time with the club has shown just flashes of the talent that once made him one of the Bundesliga’s best.
Reports in Germany have suggested that a new contract is unlikely for Keita at Liverpool and the 27-year-old is expected to depart on a free transfer this summer.
As Keita edges towards the exit door, we’ve looked at five of the most disappointing Liverpool signings of the Jurgen Klopp era.
Jurgen Klopp turned to his homeland to improve Liverpool’s goalkeeping ranks in 2016, securing a deal to sign Lorius Karius from former club Mainz. Karius was highly rated when he arrived at Anfield and had represented Germany at u21 level, before ousting Simon Mignolet as Liverpool’s number one during the 2017/18 campaign.
The German made 49 appearances for the Reds across two seasons, but failed to convince. His time with the club effectively came to an end following a horror performance in the 2018 Champions League final, as Karius gifted Real Madrid two goals in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat in Kyiv.
Oh my word! 😮
A disaster for Loris Karius!
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 26, 2018
He inexplicably rolled the ball into Karim Benzema’s path for the opener, before another calamitous mistake allowed Gareth Bale’s long-range drive to squirm through his clutches. In search of a much-needed improvement, Liverpool broke the then-transfer record for a goalkeeper to sign Alisson from Roma that summer.
Karius never featured for Liverpool again and had loan spells with Besiktas and Union Berlin, before a difficult 2021/22 campaign in which he failed to secure a permanent move away and was left out of the Liverpool squad for the second half of the season. He departed on a free transfer in 2022, before signing a short-team deal to provide cover for Nick Pope at Newcastle.
Keita’s signing has perhaps been the biggest disappointment of the Klopp era, arguably the one headline signing who has failed to live up to expectations to date.
Liverpool’s desire to bring Keita to the club was such that the Reds agreed the transfer in 2017, allowing the midfielder to remain at Leipzig for a further season before completing his move to Anfield the following summer.
After inheriting Steven Gerrard’s number eight shirt, big things were expected of Keita, who had emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s best box-to-box midfielders and was named in the division’s Team of the Season in 2016/17.
Sky Germany report that Naby Keita is "on the verge of leaving" Liverpool at the end of the season 🔴 pic.twitter.com/ZBPqciwVyS
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 6, 2023
Keita’s career with the club has instead been a cycle of false dawns and fitness issues. There have been occasional glimpses of the player Liverpool had expected him to become, but his best spells have often proven short-lived as his body has failed him.
The 27-year-old has started just 48 league games since his arrival from Leipzig, an average of 10.6 per season across his four-and-a-half campaigns in Liverpool red. The Guinea international has had his moments and fans will recall fond memories of thumping strikes against Chelsea and Crystal Palace and star performances in big away wins at Manchester United and Benfica, but those – crucially – have been exceptions rather than the rule.
At a time where Liverpool are desperate for midfield dynamism, Keita looks set to leave on a free transfer. That is perhaps the greatest indication of what has been an underwhelming period at Anfield.
Excitement was high when Liverpool announced the signing of Takumi Minamino from Red Bull Salzburg, with the Japan international having shone during a Champions League meeting between the sides earlier in the campaign.
Minamino scored against Jurgen Klopp’s side during a thrilling 4-3 encounter under the Anfield lights and arrived with a record of 107 goals and assists in 199 appearances for the Austrian side. Liverpool moved quickly to win the race and his £7.25m release clause was hailed as a bargain.
Minamino failed to make a lasting impression across two-and-a-half seasons at Liverpool and was allowed to leave on loan for Southampton in 2020/21, where he scored twice in ten league appearances. His minutes at Liverpool were restricted due to the club’s attacking options, as he competed for a place alongside Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.
He made just five league starts for the Reds, but did enjoy success in cup competition during his final season at the club. Minamino finished as Liverpool’s leading scorer in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup as the Reds won a domestic cup double in 2021/22. However, he did not feature in either final despite his goal record in the earlier rounds.
Having had a bit-part role for Klopp, he departed for Monaco in a deal worth up to £15.5m in 2022.
Liverpool’s crisis at centre-back led to late business in the 2021 January transfer window, securing the signings of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak.
Davies never made an appearance following his surprise arrival from Preston North End, while Kabak featured 13 times but failed to impress. The 20-year-old arrived with a growing reputation after an impressive emergence at Stuttgart and Schalke, where he had been named as the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Season after a breakthrough with the former in 2018/19.
Viewed as raw and inexperienced but with potential, Liverpool signed Kabak on a six-month loan deal and had the option to turn the transfer into a permanent switch for an initial fee of £18m. However, Liverpool declined their option after Kabak struggled during an error-prone period.
The Turkey international lost his place in the side to Nat Phillips and academy graduate Rhys Williams and returned to Schalke after a forgettable spell at Anfield. He signed on loan for Norwich during the 2021/22 season, but made just 11 league appearances as the Canaries were relegated. His fortunes have since improved since a summer switch to Hoffenheim.
It can be easy to forget that Arthur Melo is at Liverpool right now.
Signed on deadline day from Juventus as the club sought to add midfield depth, the Brazilian has since endured a torrid time. Melo has featured for just 13 minutes, a debut which came as Liverpool were thrashed 4-1 at Napoli in the Champions League’s group stage.
Liverpool paid £3million to secure the loan deal, which included an option to buy the midfielder permanently for £33million. Barring a remarkable turnaround, that option appears hugely unlikely.
Arthur Melo is set to be omitted from Liverpool's Champions League squad for the knock-out stages.
A massive blow for him.
He absolutely bossed it in the 13 minutes he's played for the Reds this season! pic.twitter.com/0WIAtIU5Oj
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) February 3, 2023
Melo tore a quad muscle in October and has not made an appearance since, with his arrival having added to the injury concerns at Liverpool rather than solve them.
For a footballer who has been purchased for combined fees in excess of €120m during transfers to Barcelona and Juventus, it has proven a disastrous period for the 26-year-old since moving to Merseyside.