16 interceptions, 93% passing - Should Liverpool have signed this bargain veteran?

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Seydou Keita reportedly twice slipped out of Liverpoool’s grasp this year and is now flourishing at the Stadio Olimpico.

In the midst of a title hunt in January, Liverpool faced the need for a defensive midfielder with an injury to Lucas Leiva laying the squad bare in this area.

A reinforcement wouldn’t arrive by deadline day, though it would later be revealed that ex-Barcelona star Seydou Keita had turned down the Reds to join Valencia instead.

Just months later in June, however, the Mali international was on the market again. Keita reportedly turned down an extension on his six-month deal at the Mestalla in pursuit of Champions League football.

Reports from Spain claimed that Liverpool in turn reignited their interest in the 34-year-old, only for Serie A giants AS Roma to step in and quickly lock him down for themselves.

Liverpool instead signed Emre Can to bolster their midfield, a far younger, highly-touted option tipped for a big future – banishing any angst over missing out on Keita.

But unfortunately for the Reds, an injury on international duty has kept Can out of the side since late August. Meanwhile, the absence of Joe Allen and questions surrounding Steven Gerrard’s suitability in a deep role have compounded the issue of Can’s unavailability.

At the same time, Keita has done a fine job at Roma deputising for injured team-mates Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman. The veteran has forcefully demonstrated he is still capable of playing at the top level in six Serie A appearances thus far.

In 407 minutes of Serie A football, Keita has made 16 interceptions – more than any Liverpool midfielder this season – and completed an impressive 93% of his passes.

  TeamPosInterceptionPass AccuracyAppsMins
Jordan Henderson Liverpool MF 13 87.56% 7 630
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 4 87.50% 7 630
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 4 86.25% 3 123
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool MF 3 86.03% 5 331
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 2 85.25% 3 163
Emre Can Liverpool MF 1 95.83% 2 44

Only Can has a better pass accuracy rating of Keita’s Anfield counterparts – in 44 Premier League minutes – as the Malian has quickly become a fan favourite at the Stadio Olimpico.

Considering that Keita was signed on a free transfer to a one-year deal and earns a reported £18,000 per week (£936,000 per year), Roma look to have pulled off something of a masterstroke in terms of relative value.

Whilst Brendan Rodgers looked to have all the bases covered in midfield after the summer’s business, the profound effect absences have had is quite noticeable.

It begs the question of whether – at low-cost to the club – Keita could’ve offered something extra, and his time in Serie A so far suggests the Reds would’ve benefitted from his presence.

Hindsight is of course a powerful tool in assessing a side’s moves on the transfer market. But after a rough start to the season, perhaps seeing Keita go elsewhere in early June was more of a blow for Liverpool than originally thought.

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