Naby Keita quickly established himself as one of the Bundesliga’s best midfielders in his two-season stint with RB Leipzig, especially in his first season, when they finished second in the table behind Bayern Munich. Keita tallied eight goals and eight assists in his maiden campaign with Die Roten Bullen in 2016/2017 and caught the eye of several of Europe’s top clubs. Jurgen Klopp was incredibly eager to bring him to Liverpool, where he now plays after transferring to the Premier League club on a summer transfer.
In an interview with Liverpool FC’s official website (per SportBild), Keita reminisced on his Bundesliga days and revealed the player he enjoyed playing against the least. It is none other than Bayern Munich’s Xabi Alonso:
When I used to play against Bayern, Xabi Alonso always used to give me a really hard time. He was so experienced, he made me suffer. The way he’d keep switching play just meant that you could never stop running. He was very intelligent.
In the 2016/2017 campaign, the two league meetings between Bayern and Leipzig produced a total of 12 goals; a 3-0 win for Bayern at the Allianz Arena and then a come-from-behind 5-4 win for Bayern on the second to last day of the season at the Red Bull Arena. Keita and Alonso started in both of those matches; Alonso scored in the 3-0 win and provided an assist to Thiago Alcantara in the 5-4 win. Keita tellingly had only a yellow card to show for his efforts.
Keita and Alonso are both arguably two of the best passing midfielders in the game. It’s not exactly a passing of the torch as they possess very different playing styles, but it’s always interesting to hear current players discuss playing against some of the greats that have since hung up their boots.
And of course it’s nice to remind everyone that we beat Leipzig twice that season en route to Bayern’s (at the time) fifth consecutive Bundesliga title.