To the surprise of absolutely no one, Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp mostly doodled around the edges of the squad depth chart during the recently concluded transfer window. That isn’t, however, stopping some of the more persistent transfer storylines from continuing to lumber along in a zombified state until they are reanimated by the warm sunshine of summer.
One of those storylines will almost certainly involve RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Liverpool. The 22-year-old has been linked to several clubs, but for various reasons both sensible and specious, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds are prominently featured in those storylines, notwithstanding the fact that Liverpool has not officially registered any interest.
Leipzig’s preference would be for Werner to extend his current contract, which ends in 2020, and have dangled a new deal with some prohibitive release clause numbers in front of their young star, but they are also unlikely to give the player more time to make a decision beyond this summer.
Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick is no stranger to dealing with Liverpool, and has tried to impress upon his young star the perils of looking for success elsewhere, dropping a very familiar name in the process.
“Keïta was an outstanding player here, but he’s still struggling in Liverpool,” stated Rangnick. “So far, he’s not the player there that he was here. The surroundings must be right for Timo. That’s the case here.”
“We have gone to our financial limit with our offer,” added the manager, laying out in his view the crux of Werner’s decision. “We know that he can earn more elsewhere, but he can also provide for himself for the rest of his life here. The financial aspect will not be the decisive factor, but rather the sporting perspective.”
”We’re trying to keep him. He knows he’s very popular in the team, with the coach and the fans. He’s a top player, and he has become one of the most exciting Bundesliga strikers in the country.”
It’s a classic big fish/small pond situation that Rangnick is describing, and it’s the kind of tack that could backfire spectacularly if the manager has misread his player’s appetite for a challenge. On the other hand, Rangnick is right that Naby Keïta is sometimes perceived as having made a slow start to his Liverpool career, and that could be something that weighs on Werner’s mind.
Lots of time for mind games between now and the summer, and perhaps the best way for Liverpool to crush Rangnick’s argument (if they indeed have any plans for Werner) would be for Keïta to help the Reds to a title.