Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita is a “very sensitive guy” who needs “special care” if he is to reach his maximum, according to former team-mate Willi Orban.
Keita started just nine times in all competitions for the Reds last season, his last appearance coming in the Champions League quarter-final first leg tie against Real Madrid, where he was hauled off three minutes before half-time having failed to make an impact.
His £54m move from RB Leipzig has not gone as both club and player would have planned, with Keita flattering to deceive during the Premier League and Champions League triumphs.
Euro 2020: Scotland draw quest, Lewandowski, Spain cruise
But Orban, who played with Keita at Leipzig, thinks there will be something wrong with the Liverpool midfielder’s “environment” if he isn’t performing.
“Naby is a very sensitive guy who has to feel completely comfortable in his environment in order to perform well,” Orban told Goal. “You have to take special care of him, talk to him a lot. He needed breaks from time to time, when he was with us.
“The Premier League is certainly even more demanding in this regard.”
When asked about the most talented player he has played with, Orban added: “Keita with his extraordinary ball control, his dynamism and his finishing. He was just complete.”
Despite his lack of appearances, Jurgen Klopp would prefer to retain the 26-year-old going into next season, citing “stability” as the reason why he has been used so sparingly this campaign.
Speaking about Keita’s future in May, the Liverpool boss said: “It’s a lot of things in this year, it was really tricky.
“We had to change so often and then in the moment you try to go for stability, it’s really like this and that’s what we need.
“You can see now for example, Man Utd – I think the last line played nearly the last 20 games together. Then you can make changes everywhere because you have a proper basis. We never had that.
“Then on top of that, then making two or three changes in midfield just doesn’t work out in football. People say, ‘Try it.’ We would try definitely if we could be not only nearly sure that it could work out, but you need stability in a football team.
“Naby trains really well in the moment, I have to say. He trains really well, like a lot of other players, and looks really good in training. But this year now we need stability.
“We will make changes from time to time definitely, but it’s not like we pick now seven, eight, nine players to change and say, ‘Maybe we can win it like this.’ The long-term future of Naby Keita, from my point of view, is here, yes.”