RB Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has revealed that Liverpool actually beat Barcelona in acquiring the signature of Naby Keita this summer, mainly due to the fact that the Catalonians “didn’t try as hard” to get him.
Liverpool were heavily pursuing the Guinea international throughout the summer and even saw a couple of bids get rejected. Leipzig, on their part, were obviously reluctant to lose him, but couldn’t hold onto him for longer.
However, there happened to be a release clause of £48m in Keita’s contract which could have only been triggered in the summer of 2018, and Liverpool, after paying an undisclosed premium on top of his clause, managed to secure his services. The 22-year-old midfielder will join Liverpool on 1 July 2018.
Now it has been revealed that Liverpool weren’t the only club vying for Keita’s signing during the summer as Inter Milan were reportedly in the chase as well.
And Barcelona too eventually entered the fray and their technical secretary Robert Fernandez and assistant Urbano Ortega even travelled to Germany back in August to keep a track on his and Leon Goretzka’s progress, by watching the Bundesliga clash between Schalke and Leipzig in Gelsenkirchen.
Barcelona were then chasing Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and with us playing hardball, Catalan publication Mundo Deportivo (h/t IBTimes) claimed that Keita had been identified as their final option.
No move ever materialised, but Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff has admitted that Barcelona were officially in the fray, but couldn’t manage to match Liverpool’s effort, hence failing to reach a positive conclusion.
“That’s right [Jurgen Klopp has his favourite player], even more so because Barcelona were also interested in Naby Keita,” he said during an interview with SportBild (h/t ESPN). “This was confirmed to us by Barcelona, but obviously they didn’t try as hard as Liverpool.”
Mintzlaff also said that Keita wanted to move to Liverpool as early as possible, but that sporting director Ralf Rangnick suggested that the club wouldn’t sell any of their first team regulars, as they had secured a Champions League berth after finishing second in the league last season.
“He wanted the transfer this summer. But [Leipzig sporting director] Ralf Rangnick told the team that we will not sell any players [at that time],” he said.
“This was not lip service — it was set in stone. Had we released Keita, other players might have come up with a similar idea.”
Naby Keita will surely be a difference next season and I can’t really wait to see him arrive at the club.