Why Geoffrey Kondogbia Is The Perfect Alternative For Naby Keita
Liverpool’s pursuit of RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita isn’t bearing any fruits. The 22-year old has been on the Reds’ wish-list for months now and they have been chasing him relentlessly. But the player’s disinterest to move away, and the club’s exorbitant price tag have combined to work against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
However, Liverpool are not willing to back down and according to the latest reports from the Mirror, the Merseysiders are set to test the Bundesliga outfit’s resolve with a club-record £70million offer for Keita’s services.
Liverpool have already broken their club-record fee this transfer window, when they signed attacker Mohamed Salah from AS Roma for £39million, but they are willing to smash it once again, indicating their seriousness to sign Keita.
The Guinean international had a spectacular start to life in Bundesliga, as he was one of the cornerstones on which Leipzig’s surprising yet successful campaign was built upon, following their return to the German top-flight. Keita finished with 8 goals and 8 assists from 31 league appearances, but along with his contributions in attack, his excellent work-rate, the energy and tenacity that he brought to the middle of the park were one of the major driving forces behind their second-place finish in the Bundesliga, earning them a place in the coming season’s UEFA Champions League.
So, it is no wonder that Leipzig are in no mood to sell their prized asset. However, should Liverpool be splashing as much as £70million for the player? Or can they look at a possible alternative who could perform similar duties and not cost them as much as Keita?
One possible option they should definitely consider taking a look at is Inter Milan’s Geoffrey Kondogbia.
The 24-year old midfielder was tipped to be the next superstar to come through the French football, but following an extremely promising start to his career, he has hit somewhat of a roadblock in his progression since his move to Italy. A managerial merry-go-round and the instability that has surrounded the club for the past few years did not help his case either.
Last season, the Frenchman made 24 appearances in the Serie A, in which he managed just a goal and an assist, but despite his recent downslide, Kondogbia remains an excellent option to have in the ranks.
Someone who can play in similar positions to Keita, in the central midfield and in a traditional No.6 role as well, Kondogbia possesses great levels of energy that allows him to motor up and down the park. With a tenacious presence in the middle of the park, the 24-year old is an astute tackler of the ball and has strong positional awareness and anticipation skills.
In the 2016-17 season, Kondogbia averaged a highly impressive 4.3 tackle attempt per game, better than Keita’s 3.6 attempts. His 1.5 interceptions per game are a good indicator of his ability to break up play, but the number is lesser when compared to Keita’s 2.6 interceptions per game. However, he averages a better pass-blocking rate (1.3) than the Guinean international (1.1).
Standing at a daunting height of 6ft 2in, with a strong physical frame, Kondogbia has the ability to battle it out in the midfield and is also a good option to have while defending set-pieces too. Last season, Kondogbia attempted 2.6 headed duels per game compared to Keita’s 2.5. While there isn’t much to separate the two there, it is the number of duels won, where the difference is discernable. The Frenchman won 1.4 of his attempted aerial battles every game, whereas Keita managed to come out on top on 0.6 times per game. This ability and brute physicality will come of good use in the Premier League.
On comparing the defensive numbers of the two midfielders, it is clear that Kondogbia can be an effective screen in front of the back four and can match up to Keita.
Switching the focus to the attacking side of the game, Keita’s goal and assist numbers are far superior than Kondogbia’s, but it helped the Leipzig man that he was a part of the team that played attacking football and that they were consistent over the course of the season, unlike the case with Inter.
Both the players possess good ground speed and are excellent dribblers of the ball too. With pace and power and the skills with the ball at the feet to match it, both are adept at venturing forward, carrying the ball with great effect. Keita averaged an excellent 4.2 dribble attempts per game last time around, but was successful with 2.7 of those tries. Kondogbia, on the other hand, attempted lesser dribbles (2.7 per game), but enjoyed a much better success-rate completing 2.3 of his 2.7 attempts. In fact, the 24-year old Frenchman had the best success-rate for dribbles in the Serie A, among any player to have attempted 50+ take-ons.
Kondogbia also lost possession on lesser occasions (1.1 unsuccessful touches per game), compared to Keita (1.5 unsuccessful touches). The Frenchman also had a better pass accuracy (84.4% on 1049 attempted passes) than that of the Leipzig midfield mainstay (81.8% on 1423 attempted passes).
However, it is Keita who trumps his Inter counterpart when it comes to key passes. The Guinean played a total of 40 key passes last season, averaging 1.3 per game, compared to just 10 by Kondogbia at a rate of 0.4 per game. This is one area, where there is a significant difference between the two midfielders. However, the fact that Kondogbia played 700 minutes lesser than Keita in the 2016/17 campaign should also be taken into factor here.
So, when the attacking statistics of the two midfielders are compared, it is clear that Keita has the edge, but Kondogbia possesses the exact similar traits and if given a consistent run in the team, playing with the dynamism that Jurgen Klopp’s team plays. There are no questions that he could perform much better.
The 24-year old still has a contract with Inter until 2020, but is believed to looking for an exit, as he looks to resurrect his career. And with another managerial change having taken place with the Nerazzurri, there is no guarantee that he will be a part of the new manager Luciano Spaletti’s plans. As a result, Liverpool stand a much better chance of getting Kondogbia and they will also get him at a much cheaper price than the £70million they are willing to pay for Keita.
Something to think about for Klopp and Liverpool, perhaps.
**All Stats Taken From Whoscored.com