From the streets of Guinea to a record-breaker – Keita is living the dream


African Footballer of the Year 2017: Naby Keita profile

When you have received more votes than any other midfielder in a public poll organised by the Bundesliga, driven your team to a historic second place in the league and secured a record £48m African transfer fee, you have got a few highlights of the year to look back on.

But none of the above makes the list of RB Leipzig’s Guinea star Naby Keita.

Instead, his best moment of 2017 came when realising a fantasy formed as he grew up in the Guinean capital Conakry: playing in the Champions League.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a young boy,” the 22-year-old tells BBC Sport.

“Even back then, I had decided that one day I would play in the Champions League. Luckily we had a wonderful season last season, we worked really well and the reward was the match against Porto.”

Keita missed Leipzig’s inaugural Champions League group game, a 1-1 draw at home to Monaco in September, because of injury.

He made his Champions League debut in a 2-0 defeat at Besiktas before Leipzig finally won a group game, beating two-time European champions Porto 3-2 at home in October.

Two very important spectators were inside the Red Bull Arena that night.

“When I was young, I told my parents, ‘I promise you I’m going to play in the Champions League and for my first match, I’ll invite you to come and watch me play,'” he says.

“Luckily, I was able to do that and I was very happy. It was a moment of pride. It also greatly encourages me in everything I do.”

Keita scored just five minutes into his Bundesliga debut as RB Leipzig beat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 in September 2016

In some ways, it represented a small payback for his mother, who could have been forgiven for having a few flashbacks during the match.

Such was her son’s obsession with football that whenever he was taken shopping, Naby would endlessly look for things to kick, making life even tougher for his cash-strapped family.

“My mother always said that going shopping with me was very expensive – many things got broken,” he told the Bundesliga website.