Liverpool’s pursuit of Naby Keita seems to get more difficult by the hour, as once again it was reiterated that Leipzig would not sell any of their stars from last season.
“No-one has put a price on Naby”
The Reds had been buoyed by news late Sunday, in German publication Bild, that the side from Saxony were willing to listen to offers in the region of €80m. Fussballstadt sources within the Leipzig club spoke Tuesday afternoon stating they were unaware of figures regarding Naby Keita’s value – “No-one has put a price on Naby here, we have no idea where this price comes from, Mr Rangnick’s views are pretty concrete – No-one is for sale”.
RB Leipzig were unwilling to respond to Fussballstadt formally on the intricate details surrounding the transfer status of either Naby Keita or Emil Forsberg. Only underlining the top down stance that players are not for sale.
The news that Keita — nor Forsberg or Werner — are for sale from sources inside the RedBull Arena furthers the information published by the Liverpool Echo on Tuesday morning. The local newspaper to Klopp’s Reds spoke to Kicker’s Leipzig correspondent, Oliver Hartmann: “Ralf Rangnick (Leipzig’s sporting director) said that he will not sell any major player this summer. And a ‘no’ from Rangnick means ‘no’. Keita can leave next year for approximately 55million Euros. He has a clause in his contract”
It is however, understood that RB Leipzig will look to offer star players such as Keita improved contract deals, taking their roles at the club up to 2022. Speaking directly to Fussballstadt a member of Leipzig’s backroom staff explained where the club sees itself now it had qualified for the Champions League ahead of schedule. “Last season took us all by surprise, we knew we had the infrastructure and plans in place to challenge for the Bundesliga at some point but wow, not in our first season”. He went on to say “Qualification for the Champions League group stage has proven we are on the right track, now we must shift our goals accordingly”.
Rangnick’s stance is crystal clear
Rangnick’s comments on the status of player availability correspond with those of Leipzig CEO, Oliver Mintzlaff. Speaking late last week he was as crystal clear as Rangnick now is: “It would be negligent to give away one of our key players now,” Mintzlaff said. “Emil and Naby are both extremely talented players with a lot of potential”.
Rangnick’s stance also underlines the very reason the German left Hoffenheim in 2011. Growing tired of seeing top players such as Luiz Gustavo leave for Bayern Munich, the then head coach of Hoffenheim left by mutual consent. Joining RB Leipzig in 2012 he was given assurances by Dietrich Mateschitz, the head of Red Bull, that the plans for Leipzig were grand, it would not involve selling their best players should they not wish to.
Current Leipzig head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl has also been given assurances that the squad that surprised so many would not be broken up before an assault on Europe’s biggest club competition has even started. Similar assurances were given to Thomas Tuchel surrounding the futures of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with all three being sold in a short space of time it was the beginning of the end for the young coach – the relationship breaking down before it really began. Leipzig are only too aware of what the loss of critical players can do to a side, had Dortmund not been weakened their ascendance to second place in the Bundesliga on their debut season may never have happened.
With doubts existing over the validity of the so-called €80m top line, the continued stance of not for sale seems to be Leipzig’s true answer. News around Keita’s openness to move to Liverpool emanate from the player’s management agency, Arena11 Sports. Rumours of a Wednesday meeting between Keita’s representatives and Liverpool Football Club could be concluded in short time, if true.
Liverpool’s main hope could be that Keita is unwilling to extend his current contract past 2020 with RB Leipzig, leaving him free to move next season for €55m. Whilst RB Leipzig sources say Keita is ‘happy at Leipzig’ there is significant noise to suggest the Guinean is sounding out a move – it may be that his wishes are put on hold for 12 months.
Players will not be sold – The reoccurring theme from RB Leipzig
Leipzig have already shown their hand when it comes to player power – Emil Forsberg had asked for a move, being emphatically told by Ralph Rangnick — personally — it will not happen. The Swede’s agent went public last week commenting Leipzig must “live with the fact they are destroying his dreams”. Leipzig’s retort was to remind Hasan Cetinkaya of the contract he negotiated, and that they could “send him a copy should he have forgotten”.
The status of RB Leipzig is much of an oddity in footballing terms. Money is seemingly no object, only the pursuit of excellence. RB Leipzig have been elevated to a similar level to that of Red Bull Racing within the drinks manufacturers higher circles. Their involvement in the Champions League gives Red Bull owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, the exposure he craves to take the Red Bull brand to the very top of global markets. The man that took on Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and won, will stop at nothing to see a Red Bull arm lift the biggest prize of all in European football.
Keita has so far not asked Leipzig for a move, nor have Arena11 Sports contacted anyone at Leipzig to test the resolve of Mintzlaff and Ragnick. If Leipzig’s communications with Forsberg’s agent are anything to go by, it may be the truth that not for sale means not for sale. “Cetinkaya was told that not even a bid for €180m from AC Milan would convince Rangnick to sell, no means no” Fussballstadt was told.
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions — he can be found somewhere between the Kop and Yellow Wall. Published in both local and international publications, such as the Liverpool Echo and Sport Bild, he also contributes to television and radio across the United Kingdom. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) he lives and breathes football. Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams