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Talent Radar

African Young Player of the Year 2017: Naby Keita

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward seven of the best young individuals across seven primary categories.

Under our Talent Radar banner, we have constantly strived to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names.

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward seven of the best young individuals across seven primary categories.

Eligibility: 21 years old and below on January 1st, 2017

Naby Keïta’s 2017

The Guinean’s 2017 continued from where he left off in 2016, with a string of fantastic performances as RB Leipzig maintained their record-breaking debut Bundesliga season. Though the side did eventually fizzle into second place behind eventual champions Bayern Munich, the entire Leipzig squad had made their mark in German football, with Keïta being the face of the new wave across the domestic game in the country – led by a team based around a core of youngsters.

While Naby Keïta’s first year in the German Bundesliga would have been the difficult one, having made the transition from Austria, keeping his form levels maintained for the next calendar year and going into the new season was the bigger challenge. But despite that, the Guinean International has had no trouble in growing into one of the most sought after youngsters in Europe. A record breaking transfer market saw the 22-year-old’s name mentioned multiple times in the summer, before Liverpool eventually completed a future purchase of the midfielder.

Keïta has truly flourished under Ralph Hasenhüttl’s exciting approach with his Leipzig side, adding maturity to the Guinean’s play after his raw transition from Salzburg. Such is his importance to the side that Hasenhüttl has started Keita in every single league, cup and continental game in 2017 at the time of writing, barring any games missed due to suspension and the opening Champions League game that he missed with injury.

The ex-Istres man has also been shortlisted for the CAF African Player of the Year 2017, besides winning a number of accolades on this website (including retaining this award – becoming the first player to retain any Talent Radar Award).

Having grown up in Conarky, his rise in Europe has been remarkable given he only moved to the continent four years back as a teenager. And despite his early struggles in finding a footballing home in France, four years later, Keïta has established himself as one of world football’s most exciting youngsters. (written by Sami Faizullah)

Final Nominees

In alphabetical order:

  • Andre Onana (Cameroon & Ajax Amsterdam)
  • Balde Keita (Senegal & AS Monaco / Lazio)
  • Naby Keita (Guinea & RB Leipzig)
  • Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast & AC Milan / Atalanta)
  • Ramy Bensebaini (Algeria & Rennes)

What do the Experts say?

Here’s what Bundesliga expert, Archie Rhind-Tutt told Outside of the Boot:

“In Naby Keita, RB Leipzig possess a player who has shown he can create something out of nothing. His turn of pace coupled with an outstanding dribbling ability makes him very difficult to stop when he charges at opponents whilst his aptitude when it comes to bringing about quick transitions proved invaluable to Leipzig in their first season in the Bundesliga. It’s doubtful as to whether they would have qualified for the Champions League without him.”

Guinean Football expert, Amadou Makadji told us this:

“Naby Keita has improved a lot since joining the Bundesliga. I was really amazed to see how he adapted quickly to this new division and become one of the best players at Leipzig. He said he wants to become the best player in Africa and I can think he is on the way. This year, he is nominated for the African Player of the Year by the African Confederations. I don’t know if he will get the trophy but being among the best in Africa is a big thing for him. Hope he will continue like this”

Talent Radar Accolades

From the Scout Report

Excerpt from Tom Canton‘s Scout Report of Naby Keïta (July 2016)

“Keïta should no longer be talked about in the category of a central midfielder deployed in a deeper role. Keïta flourishes when given the freedom to carry the ball to create attacking situations.

Fast passing, high energy style that Salzburg play, suits Keïta down to the ground; which, ironically, is exactly where he prefers to keep his passes. Keïta has shown that he is quick to draw players out of position and create space for his teammates to exploit.

He can play in any of the three attacking midfield positions and although he may favour his right foot, he is certainly akin to using his left with relative ease.”

African Young Player of the Year History

YearPlayerAgeNationalityClubCurrent Club
2017Naby Keita22GuineaRB LeipzigRB Leipzig
2016Naby Keita21GuineaRB Leipzig & RB SalzburgRB Leipzig
2015Hakim Ziyech22MoroccoTwenteAjax Amsterdam

Young Stars of the Year – 2017 / 2016 / 2015

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