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Ralf Rangnick Blames “A Village in Guinea” for Turning Naby Keïta’s Head

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The RB Leipzig sporting director has done his best today to further alienate the club’s two want-away stars.

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It had looked like the Naby Keïta transfer saga was over after Liverpool signalled to friendly journalists that they would not put in a third bid and instead would be moving on. Then, reports out of Germany claimed RB Leipzig had moved up plans to bring in a replacement.

At best, the reports seemed speculative. At worst, they looked an attempt to milk the story for a little while longer. But they kept it alive, just barely. Now, Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick has done his embarrassing best to ensure the story goes on at least a little while longer.

"The boys themselves are not the problem here," Rangnick said this morning at a coaching convention in Bochum, referring to both Keïta and Leipzig's other want-away star, Emil Forsberg, after a summer that has seen both push hard for moves away from the club.

"It is their surroundings. A whole village in Guinea or somebody from their entourage tells the players they must do something right away. I can't blame the players. I expect them to play for us next season. Both are extraordinary players who make a difference for our club."

Blaming a players' agents or the people from their homeland is, giving it the absolute kindest reading possible, incredibly tone deaf on Rangnick's part, and if the players are already unsettled at the club—and both appear to be—it can only serve to push them further away.

Even if one is generous and grants there was no real malice in Rangnick's comments—simply frustration at feeling his players' heads were turned by outside forces—it's hard to imagine a less helpful statement if Leipzig's goal is to repair relationships and hold on to the players.

A less generous reading, one focused on his comments as they pertain to Keïta, would be that Rangnick’s dismissive reference to his home "village," the city of Conakry which has three times the population of Leipzig, displays ignorance, condescension, and more than a hint of casual racism.

No matter the reading, though, it's the kind of comment that makes the position of both Keïta and Forsberg at the club more difficult, and perhaps pushes them towards formal transfer requests. It seems alienating, almost intentionally so, and how the players react now is anybody's guess.