Naby Keita catches flight out of AFCON – likely to make swift Liverpool return

Naby Keita has departed Cameroon following Guinea’s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, with the midfielder now expected to be fit for Liverpool’s clash with Cardiff.

Prior to Guinea’s 1-0 defeat to Gambia in the last 16, Keita was one of the standout performers at the tournament, shining in all three group games.

The 26-year-old was named Man of the Match against both Malawi and Senegal, before scoring a brilliant long-range goal in the 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe that clinched progress to the knockout stages.

But having picked up yellow cards against Senegal and Zimbabwe, Keita was then suspended for the last-16 tie, which was clearly a setback for Guinea.

Without their captain, Kaba Diawara’s side were unable to produce the quality to overcome Gambia, with Musa Barrow’s goal deciding a game that saw both countries finish with 10 men.

For two days, there was no reaction from the Guinea camp, not least Keita, but the squad have now been pictured smiling ahead of boarding flights out of Cameroon.

Liverpool’s No. 8 is now due to take time off before reporting back to the training ground Kirkby, and with a week-and-a-half until the Reds’ next fixture it is possible he rejoins the squad before then.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (#10) celebrates with team-mate Naby Keita (R) after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is a possibility that Jurgen Klopp grants his AFCON internationals an extended break given their efforts at the tournament, though that is yet to be confirmed.

Keita played the full 90 minutes in each of Guinea’s three games in Group B, but having missed the last-16 defeat has now already been out of action for a week.

After a short break, then, Keita could report back for preparations ahead of the FA Cup third-round clash with Cardiff, by which point the Reds could be well-stocked in midfield.

Thiago is set to return to full training at the start of next month, while Klopp has already confirmed that Harvey Elliott will now be considered available after his recovery from a long-term ankle injury.

Provided Fabinho does not pick up any injuries on Brazil duty – with the No. 3 suspended for their first World Cup qualifier of the break against Ecuador – Liverpool should have a full complement of midfielders available.