Naby Keita has been tipped to turn his Liverpool career around by Michel Dussuyer, the man who gave the Guinea midfielder his international debut in 2013, despite increasing rumours of an offseason exit from the Premier League leaders.
Keita arrived at Anfield in a £52.75 million deal from RasenBallsport Leipzig in July 2018, but has struggled to replicate his Bundesliga form in the Premier League, with injuries and a lack of consistent playing time affecting his progress.
However, Dussuyer, who's currently the head coach of the Benin national team, is confident his former charge can turn his fortunes around.
"For him to blossom today, he simply needs to put together a run of performances and to get some rhythm," the 61-year-old told ESPN. "He certainly has enough quality to express himself in this magnificent league.
"[Naby has] enormous technical qualities, but not only that. He doesn't have a massive frame, but he's capable of compensating with a lot of energy, of breaking the lines, of being decisive with his final pass.
"He's a player who belongs at this high level, but it's hard to express yourself when you're so often halted, this is the problem he has at the moment with Liverpool, he's so often injured."
Keita has managed just 10 league appearances -- of which only five have been starts -- during Liverpool's current league campaign, and has been a peripheral figure during their title challenge.
Groin and muscles injuries have been his downfall, and he missed the Reds' Champions League final success against Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 as a result. He also only played 25 league games, with 16 starts, last season.
"I'm obviously not well placed to know the reason for these repetitive injuries," Dussuyer added. "I think he must have enough people around him of quality to manage these problems, but either way, it's a problem which is putting the brakes on his ability to express himself at the moment."
Having struggled to make his mark at Anfield, Keita is increasingly being tipped for and offseason departure, and sources in Italy have reported that AC Milan could be keen on the Guinea player, particularly following the imminent arrival of ex-Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick.
Dussuyer remains confident, however, that Keita can still leave an impact in England, and noted how far his former charge has come since he was first courted by Guinea seven years ago.
"The earliest memories I have of Naby are when I took myself to Istres, to watch him play for the team FC Istres, who were in Ligue 2 at the time," Dussuyer remembers. "I saw a boy who appeared, on first glance, to be very decisive in what he did at the time.
"It seemed that he perhaps wasn't completely in the rhythm of Ligue 2, but he was decisive in his moves and in flashes during the course of the match.
"He quickly adapted to the rhythm and he quickly went through the gears to the point of being an international.
"He really enjoyed an excellent run with us during the qualifiers for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, the only regret was that I found him to be a little tired during the tournament proper, which wasn't as good."
Liverpool returned to action following the three-month coronavirus-enforced absence of the Premier League, with Sunday's Merseyside Derby against Everton at Goodison Park, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Heading into lockdown, the Reds enjoyed a record 25-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, but after the Citizens' victory over Arsenal on Wednesday, they couldn't win the title at the home of their Merseyside rivals even if they'd bagged all three points.