Barcelona technical director Robert Fernandez was reportedly in attendance at RB Leipzig’s clash with Schalke on Saturday to watch Naby Keita and Leon Goretzka.
According to Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror, Fernandez and the club’s head of recruitment made their way to the Bundesliga clash after learning their third bid for Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho had been rejected.
It’s suggested in the piece Barca "continue to search for a long-term heir to Andres Iniesta—whose future continues to be uncertain—and an alternative to Coutinho." Leipzig’s Keita and Schalke’s Goretzka were said to be on their agenda.
Schalke won the contest 2-0, as the two came head-to-head in midfield. As noted by Squawka Football, even though he was on the losing side, Keita was impressive:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Naby Keita's game by numbers vs. Schalke: 6 tackles won 5 take-ons completed 3 chances created 2 interceptions Unlucky to lose. 👎 https://t.co/4oI9TSulok2017-8-21 13:19:15
Keita has been subject to major transfer speculation throughout the summer, with Liverpool making two offers for the player worth £57 million and £66 million. As noted by Richards, the Reds were rebuffed on both occasions, with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up standing their ground.
The Guinea international doesn't have the traits you’d associate with an archetypal Barcelona midfielder, but he’s still a fantastic footballer. Here’s a look at some of his standout moments from a remarkable 2016-17 campaign:
Keita is a strong technical player, able to negotiate tight spaces on the pitch and play smart passes. Marry that ability with his powerful running style and unrelenting energy, and the Leipzig man is a complete package.
It’s difficult to envisage a scenario in which Barcelona get him in the current window, though. As noted Richards, the Bundesliga outfit have made it clear Keita will be at the club for their first foray into the UEFA Champions League this season.
Goretzka would be more gettable. Per the report, he has been linked with a possible switch to Bayern Munich, with just one season left to run on his contract with Schalke. ESPN’s Janusz Michallik believes any club getting him in would have themselves a bargain:
Janusz Michallik @JanuszMichallik
Goretzka still at Schalke. Hardly even mentioned in rumors. £21m value (TM). I'd pay twice that, at least.2017-8-9 10:55:37
Like Keita, Goretzka is a bit of an all-rounder. The 22-year-old is a strong tackler, carries the ball with intent and can contribute in the final third with goals, too. Given he’s still got a lot to learn, it's not surprising so many are excited about his potential.
He was asked about a possible extension recently and offered the following response, per DW Sports:
DW Sports @dw_sports
Leon Goretzka: "If and when there is something to announce, then I will do that." https://t.co/wkCRpbFhji2017-7-29 18:23:45
If Leipzig rejected £66 million from Liverpool earlier in the window for Keita, it’s tough to see them budging for any sum of money with just over a week remaining until the deadline. It’s clear the Guinean is a huge part of the Ralph Hasenhuttl’s plans for the coming season.
Goretzka could be a smart addition, as he’s multifaceted and versatile in where he can be utilised on the field; he’d represent value for money given his contract situation, too. However, he’s not a player who will get too many supporters overly excited at the Camp Nou.