Liverpool's top midfield target is Red Bull Leipzig's Naby Keita, and until now, the biggest threat to Liverpool signing the 22-year-old Guinean star had seemed interest from other major clubs. If Liverpool were able to secure a top four finish and Champions League football, they would likely be favourites to land him.
Or at least that's how the story has gone. Today, though, Leipzig's manager has come out saying that he expects Keita to stay. That the player believes in what he and the club are building in Germany, where Leipzig have gone from BuLi.2 afterthoughts to top flight challengers, finishing second to Bayern Munich this season.
"We are becoming an exciting club," Ralph Hasenhuttl said following their end of season gala. "Naby sees how much the team wants to make him better, and when I look at him celebrate, I see a player who will stay with us forever. He feels good here and knows we love him, and it would not be easy for him to leave our squad."
The hopeful read, at least for Liverpool fans, will be that it's nothing more than a manager in a celebratory mood looking to stay upbeat about his chances to hold on to one of his most important players—or to at least keep a strong bargaining position should it still be likely that, in the end, they will have to sell him.
Yet it's also possible that, with second place in Germany and Champions League football of their own secured, Keita might be convinced to stay at the club he has helped to raise up to the upper echelon of the Bundesliga. Especially if Champions League qualification brings with it a willingness to spend.
Keita hasn't yet committed his future to Leipzig, though if he stays, an improved offer will be expected. Keita made the switch from RB Salzburg in Austria to Leipzig last summer after Leipzig won promotion by finishing second in the Bundesliga.2 and has been key to their unexpected success this season.
The club, though, face a situation similar to Leicester City in the Premier League last season and will now face a fight to keep richer clubs from poaching some of its best players, and if one key star decides to move away it could open the floodgates to others leaving.