ROBERT MICHAEL/Getty Images
RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick has dismissed any notion that Naby Keita could join Liverpool in the January window.
The Reds have agreed a deal with Keita that’ll see him move to Anfield in the summer of 2018, though there has been some speculation the Premier League club will try to bring the move forward, especially with Leipzig in a big battle to progress in the UEFA Champions League.
But Rangnick told Leipziger Volkszeitung (h/t Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC) that Liverpool can forget about landing the 22-year-old earlier than scheduled.
“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” he said. “We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”
Keita enjoyed a stunning campaign for Leipzig last season, helping the team to an unexpected second place finish in the Bundesliga. However, this term has been a tougher one for the 22-year-old.
As noted BT Sport’s Archie Rhind-Tutt last month, the Guinea international has had some issues with his discipline so far this season:
Archie Rhind-Tutt @archiert1
Naby Keita sent off, again. Third red card in just over a month. [CC: @LFC]
Indeed, Keita has not only been reckless in some of the challenges he’s made, he’s been petulant, too, making bad decisions when he’s already been booked and picking up cautions for avoidable instances.
As relayed by football writer Andy Brassell, some Leipzig supporters said Keita has not hit the same heights this season as he did in 2016-17:
B/R Football @brfootball
Is Naby Keita living up to the hype in his second season in the Bundesliga? @andybrassell found out: https://t.co/BdGWHYQRv9 https://t.co/xmiU6ynLUn
Even so, there’s no denying Keita has plenty to keep Liverpool supporters excited about what he’ll add to the team.
Last season he was the standout midfielder in the Bundesliga. The Leipzig man can win tackles and is competent defensively, though his game is centred on much more than spoiling opposition attacks, as Keita can clatter forward, pick passes and score goals.
It means that when he’s at full flight, he can get a vice-like grip on matches. Keith Costigan of Fox Sports commented on how well the midfielder performed in Leipzig’s win over Borussia Dortmund earlier in the campaign:
keith costigan @KeithCostigan
In 45 minutes today Naby Keita completely dominated the game against @BVB Super player
For Liverpool, it’d be a boost to bring in Keita in January, as he’d add a thrust and physicality to the midfield that’s been lacking at times.
Even so, Leipzig were reluctant to do business in the summer in the hope of keeping their star man around for 2017-18. As things stand, they could still feasibly be in the Champions League in 2018—they are in third in Group G, two points behind Porto—and in the Bundesliga title race.
It means Liverpool fans will most likely have to continue watching Keita from afar for now, and they’ll be hoping his form picks up ahead of his permanent switch to Merseyside.