Nigeria’s opponents appear set to be without their star midfielder for the Africa Cup of Nations
Naby Keita is the latest African superstar whose Africa Cup of Nations participation has been placed in major doubt due to injury.
The midfielder picked up an adductor problem during the first leg of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, and while Guinea’s medical team are optimistic he can recover in time for the tournament, Jurgen Klopp is confident that the box-to-box dynamo won’t be present for the biennial showpiece in Egypt.
Keita would be a major loss for Guinea, but who could replace the former RasenBallsport Leipzig man in the heart of Paul Put’s midfield?
Here are five options:
Olympiakos midfielder Camara was a lock to start for Guinea even before Keita’s injury but is set to become even more important for the West Africans in the Liverpool man’s absence.
The midfielder is one of only three Guinea players to play every minute of their last five fixtures, and he’s the centrepiece of the side under Put.
Primarily a defensive operator, Camara can be a driving presence through the midfield, and has been tipped with a summer move to Watford should Abdoulaye Doucoure depart for pastures new.
A towering presence in midfield, Fofana can operate both as a defensive midfielder or in a more advanced role, where he can support the forward with Marouane Fellaini-like presence.
His career hasn’t truly reached the heights that was once expected of him as a youngster in Portugal, and he’s currently with Romanian side Gaz Metan.
However, Put sees something in him, and handed the 29-year-old a start in the final qualifier against the Central African Republic.
Fofana played every minute of Guinea’s campaign at the 2015 Afcon, will he also have a key role to play in Egypt?
Abdoulaye Paye Camara
One of the potential Africa-based stars of the tournament, Camara could be the key beneficiary of Keita’s absence.
He made his international debut when he came on as a substitute in the final qualifier against the Central African Republic, which was well deserved after some immense progress with Horoya AC recently.
Notably, Camara scored the opener in the Guinean giants’ 2-1 victory over Orlando Pirates in the Caf Champions League in March and could be primed to make a big impact again at the Nations Cup.
The Napoli midfielder could have forged an excellent midfield duo with Keita, but will now likely have to operate as the senior figure in the heart of the park.
He’s started three of the last four matches—including the double-header against Rwanda—after opting for Guinea at the expense of an international future with Italy.
The 21-year-old has made just 13 appearances for Napoli so far this term—after 18, last term, but could still be one of the Afcon’s breakout stars.
The Nantes midfielder is the only player on this list who’s not already a Guinea international, with the 25-year-old having appeared
He was linked with a move to both Burnley and Sevilla last summer, and could again be the subject of transfer interest over the coming months after another commanding season in Ligue 1.
Could Put also use the temptation of an Afcon showing to tempt Toure to throw his hat into the ring with Guinea, as he had appeared close to be doing in 2018?