With RB Leipzig beginning pre-season training over the past week, questions about the status of Naby Keïta and Emil Forsberg have been inevitable. So far, it’s mostly been sporting director Ralf Ragnick reiterating the party line, that Leipzig do not need to or want to sell their best players.
Today, manager Ralph Hasenhüttl took his turn speaking to the press, and inevitably he too was faced with questions about the futures of his two key players. He says he isn’t worried and that they are comfortable, but then there’s not much else he could be expected to say in the circumstance.
“You can tell them that they feel very comfortable and are looking forward to the new season,” said Hasenhüttl when asked what he might tell Liverpool and AC Milan, the two main suitors so far this summer for Keïta and Forsberg respectively. “They know very well what they have with us.”
The noises being made by Forsberg’s camp have been far from comfortable, with the player’s agent accusing the German club of killing his client’s dreams. Meanwhile, Keïta’s camp has been rather more polite about it but they have still held a series of meetings with the club to push for his departure.
For Leipzig, though, it’s a difficult situation to navigate given their goal is to establish the club as a major European sporting brand and Champions League regular in order to act as a billboard for the energy drink conglomerate that owns them. Losing their best players doesn’t help with that.
Making enough money off the sales of Keïta and Forsberg to reinvest heavily without risking the wrath of Financial Fair Play down the road and to increase their wage structure—currently in line with a bottom-half Bundesliga side—could make long-term sense for Leipzig, though.
“It’s a huge compliment for us that our players have attracted such interest,” added Hasenhüttl. “But it is not the purpose of our journey to let our players go on the first offer. Our goal is to become a large, established club, and we have to take a significant step towards that this summer.”
Meanwhile, reports out of Germany suggest that Ragnick, the sporting director of the Bundesliga’s second-place finishers last season and a side now preparing to enter the Champions League for the first time in their short history, has gone on holiday. In the middle of the transfer window.
Which is either the most inexplicably odd time for a major upper management figure at a club like Leipzig to head off on vacation or a sign of a major falling out at the club given recent reports the president and manager were both open to selling Keïta for the right price while Ragnick was not.