A lot can change in football in 12 months, and clubs rarely come back for a player they missed out on. Another target emerges, another suitor turns his head, a new deal gets signed. Things change. It’s why most Liverpool fans hear talk of the club going back for Naby Keïta next summer and can do little more than shrug.
He’s a massively talented player, to be sure. And it would be nice to see Liverpool sign him, even if their efforts to do so this summer have ended in failure. But any expectation the club will be able to, that he will still want to join up, that it will actually happen in a year? There isn’t any real expectation, just a faint hope.
That hope, though, got a small boost this week with news that Keïta is not expected to sign a new deal that would remove next summer’s £48M release clause. There had been talk in Germany that, having refused to sell him, RB Leipzig’s next step would be to give him a raise along with removing that release clause.
“I’m not currently assuming we will be able to extend his contract prematurely,” was Ralf Rangnick’s response when pressed on the issue after reports emerged in the German press that Keïta wasn’t open to a new deal—even one that might see him receive a significant pay raise in exchange for removing the release clause.
However, that refusal to negotiate won’t change Rangnick and Leipzig’s stance for the current summer and 2017-18 season. Even if they are destined to lose Keïta for £48M next summer—be it to Liverpool or someone else—the sporting director reiterated that he will be staying at the club for the coming season.
And Rangnick says that he hopes that, even if Keïta isn’t willing to negotiate a new deal today, just maybe if Leipzig do well again in the league and impress in the Champions League—if they prove they can compete for top honours—the situation might change. Because in a year, a lot can change in football.
“All scenarios will depend on how we do this season, how Naby plays himself, and so on,” Rangnick added. “It does not matter if it’s £67M or £90M, we have not developed for five years so that we can lose one of our best players in our first Champions League season.”