A want-away star, a massive fee, and a January move. This time around, Liverpool stand to benefit.
Liverpool are determined to push forward Naby Keïta’s arrival at the club, to bring the 22-year-old Guinean star to Anfield six months ahead of schedule. They will have to pay a premium to get it done, though, with Red Bull Leipzig demanding at least £13M to let the midfielder leave this month.
It could be even more than that, with some reports setting Leipzig’s January price for Keïta at closer to £17M in addition to the roughly £54M they are already guaranteed. However, it might not be quite as steep a price as it looks at first glance, as Liverpool always expected to pay more than £54M.
That was the base fee, meeting Keïta’s £48M release clause plus paying a £6M premium to secure the deal a summer early and stop any other clubs moving for him, but it escalated by another £6M if Leipzig made the Europa League and another £6M beyond that if they made the Champions League.
Leipzig are currently in the midst of a frantic top four race in the Bundesliga, one of seven teams within four points of each other all battling it out for one of the three places behind runaway league leaders Bayern Munich. And so Leipzig, fairly understandably, want that top-line fee guaranteed.
They also want a little extra for their trouble. Which also isn’t a surprise. If the deal goes through, at the high end it would see Liverpool pay around £70M for Keïta according to the Guardian—just £4M more than if they waited until the summer and Leipzig made the Champions League.
At the low end, it would see Liverpool pay just around the £66M Leipzig would have been due at the end of the season if they made the Champions League. It isn’t, when you come right down to it, an unreasonable stance for the selling club to take, especially when they know Liverpool are flush with cash.
Meanwhile, Bild in Germany are reporting that Keïta is now agitating for a move and seeming to hold himself back in training. They also claim that Keïta stopped taking German lessons in the autumn and has instead been learning English. That, in short, his head is already out of Leipzig and in Liverpool.
It all sounds rather like what Liverpool were forced to deal with in the case of Philippe Coutinho, if perhaps a touch less antagonism—so far, at least. And, of course, this time Liverpool look set to gain by it. As long as they’re willing to give Leipzig the fee they’re looking for