Naby Keita will be a Liverpool player once the summer transfer window officially opens in July. The Guinean was thought to be joining Liverpool last summer, but his club RB Leipzig stood their ground, claiming the player was not going to be sold in 2017. But, in a smart move, Liverpool activated the player’s £48 million release clause, which means no other club can beat them to the signing of the player.
RB Leipzig director of football, Oliver Mintzlaff, has been talking to Sportbild about the deal. According to the statement credited to the German, Keita was keen on joining Liverpool because of Jurgen Klopp, which gave the club no choice but to let him go:
“Naby was very enthralled by Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp in particular. It’s understandable that this was something that went through his head because he could earn many times what he gets from us. He wanted to change immediately. But Ralf Rangnick told the team that we’ll not sell a player. It wasn’t lip service, it was carved in stone. We act credibly. Had we released Keita, maybe other players would have come up with a similar idea.
“In football, it’s rather rare that you say something and stick to it. Not with us! Liverpool wanted to meet with me countless times. To eat or to visit our training centre. I had invited the responsible people, but not for negotiations.”
According to Mintzlaff, Barcelona were also interested in the player, but he chose to go to Liverpool rather than the Catalans, which is quite a surprise. He added:
“Yes, especially since FC Barcelona was interested in Naby Keita. This was confirmed to us also from Barcelona. However, they didn’t put in as much gas as Liverpool.”
It is rare to see a player rejecting Barca, especially when he knows he will play. Jurgen Klopp is no doubt a big fan of Keita and only God knows what he must have told the Guinean to convince him to join Liverpool over the Spanish giants. Hopefully the same trick he used to convince Keita can be used to persuade Liverpool’s other targets this winter, and again in the summer.