Naby Keita’s return to Liverpool’s starting XI over the last week ‘was not really a brave decision’ according to Jürgen Klopp, so impressive were the midfielder’s performances in training.
Featuring from the start for the first time since February, Keita produced a strong display capped by his first goal for the club in the Reds’ 3-1 victory at Southampton last Friday.
And he immediately followed it up with another all-action performance – and another goal – in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over FC Porto in a Champions League quarter-final first leg at Anfield.
“That’s what we wished for,” said Klopp, when quizzed on the Guinean’s growing influence at his press conference previewing Sunday’s Premier League fixture at home to Chelsea.
“He looked really good in training in the last couple of weeks, and then bringing him in against Southampton was not really a brave decision, to be honest, because he looked that good in training, and then he played there.
“The start was not perfect, but then you saw – I have no better saying – but he ‘found his feet’ in that game. It’s not the right saying, but he got better and better and better and it was a really good game.
“So I really thought it made absolute sense, we had enough time to recover between the two games, to do it against Porto.
“And then you have this wonderful start for him, with an early goal, then he showed a lot of the things which we will see much more often in the future, I’m sure.
“For him, for sure it felt amazing, 100 per cent, I think the Southampton goal was really emotional for him, and then you could see the pure joy in the Porto goal. It’s a good moment for him – long may it continue.”
Jordan Henderson enjoyed a similarly productive week, contributing a goal and an assist against Southampton before excelling against Porto, his perfectly judged pass releasing Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right wing in the build-up to Roberto Firmino’s goal.
The Liverpool captain revealed earlier this week that he had spoken with Klopp about playing in a more attacking role, and the boss is delighted with the results thus far.
“It’s true, we had that talk,” he added. “I’m not that silly, I knew that he could play the position, but we had the need in the other position and he played there really well.
“So you can see now that he wants it, he was really highly energetic, I would say, really lively – what a game against Porto, wow.
“It’s no problem, it’s my job to bring the players into their strongest position if possible. If not, then you have to play in another position, that’s how it is, and the best news is, you still play, that’s good.
“He played a lot of fantastic games slightly deeper, as a No.6, but it’s not that difficult that he is now in contention to play No.8, because with a performance like Porto, that was pretty high level.”