Now that influential playmaker Philippe Coutinho has finally secured his move to Barcelona, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are keen on finding a replacement.
The Reds agreed to a deal with RB Leipzig over the summer for midfielder Naby Keita, though the original agreement said that the Guinean will remain in Germany for the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign before arriving on Merseyside in the summer.
However, with Coutinho out the door earlier than expected, Klopp is reportedly attempting to convince Leipzig to let Keita come to England during the January transfer window.
ESPN FC reported Thursday that Liverpool have engaged Leipzig in negotiations, though the German side’s initial stance hasn’t changed.
Prior to the sale of Coutinho for a club record £142 million, Klopp was adamant that Liverpool hadn’t considered attempting to get Keita earlier than expected.
Clearly, that stance has changed now that Coutinho is out the door.
While Keita is set to officially become Liverpool property on July 1, Leipzig insist that the player remain in Germany for the duration of the season as they seek Champions League qualification.
Leipzig failed to qualify for the knockout stages of Champions League this season, so they’re currently in the round-of-32 in Europa League play.
Leipzig are currently tied on 28 points in the Bundesliga with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, though Leipzig are fifth due to their rather poor goal differential of just +2.
Dortmund have a goal differential of +15, while Leverkusen’s is +11.
The top-three finishers in the league automatically qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, while the club that finishes fourth enters the tournament in the third qualifying round.
Leipzig appear to be on the outside looking in on next season’s Champions League, but this is a side that has made a habit of beating the odds. Most sharp bettors will tell you that you can’t beat the bookmakers without doing proper research first.
That said, betting against Leipzig has proven to be a risky proposition in recent years.
Leipzig have made the meteoric rise from the fifth division of German football into the Bundesliga in the span of just eight years, so they’ve vastly exceeded expectations time and time again in the past.
Champions League qualification remains very much a realistic possibility, so their lack of interest in letting Keita leave early is understandable.
Oddsmakers will tell you that Leipzig will have no hopes of catching league-leaders Bayern (41 points), but finishing as high as second is very much in play. Schalke are currently second in the league on 30 points.
In a statement to the BBC, Leipzig said,
There is nothing new about this situation and so that speculation is not true. Nothing has changed and our position hasn’t changed from before regarding this transfer.
Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl has also ruled out the notion of letting Keita leave in January rather than in July, as originally scheduled.
Liverpool would reportedly offer to pay an additional fee in order to get Keita early, though Leipzig don’t appear all that interested.
For now, it sounds as though Klopp will have to look elsewhere for his Coutinho replacement before Keita arrives in Liverpool in July.