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EXCLUSIVE: Why Ralf Rangnick Is Against Keïta Joining Liverpool

 • by Sam McGuire
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If you weren’t familiar with RB Leipzig’s sporting director Ralf Rangnick before this summer’s transfer window then you almost certainly are now.

The 59-year-old German has been the spokesperson for the Bundesliga side as they’ve looked to fend off Liverpool’s interest in Naby Keïta while simultaneously getting the football arm of Red Bull as much exposure as possible.

He’s been adamant throughout the summer the 22-year-old box-to-box midfielder isn’t going anywhere despite reports revealing those in senior roles within the Bundesliga club are divided.

Reports claim that while Rangnick wants to keep his best players at the club for the season ahead, others see the benefit from a business point of view of selling Keïta while his stock his high.

However, a source has revealed to Football Whispers that this is nothing more than a charade on Rangnick’s part. The former Hoffenheim manager isn’t against selling Keïta. His problem lies with a member of the player’s agency, Arena 11.


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This particular member of the agency was key in Sadio Mané forcing a move away from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer of 2014.

Mané was pushing for a move, with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund rumoured to be interested, but Rangnick was adamant he would not part ways with his star winger.

The now Liverpool star ultimately refused to play for Salzburg, and eventually joined Southampton on deadline day of the summer transfer window for £10million.

Football Whispers understands the German took this personally and as soon as he found out this individual was involved in negotiations again, his stance changed from ‘no means offer more money’ to ‘I will do everything in my power to keep Keïta in Germany’.

Rangnick appears determined not to allow Arena 11 get one over on him again. So much so that he went to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and asked for his public backing in an attempt to make a deal near impossible.

He got the support he wanted. Speaking to German publication Bild, Mateschitz said: “Lately we got a €75m offer for Naby Keïta. No way! He has a contract and he will accomplish it.

“To sell him would not only be a proof of distrust to our fans but also the wrong sign for our players like Timo Werner, who is in demand too.”

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Undeterred and given encouragement from the player’s agency, Liverpool remain in the hunt for Keïta and their cause will have been helped by Rangnick’s outburst, which caused great offence:

“There should be someone who points them into the right direction,” he said at a coaching convention in Bochum on Wednesday.

“The boys themselves are not the problem here. It is their surroundings. A whole village in Guinea or somebody from their entourage tells the players why 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 the difference for our team.”

Arena 11 and Keïta are deciding whether or not to respond to these quotes.

With this seemingly becoming more and more personal for Rangnick, how long before Oliver Mintzlaff, the head of soccer operations for Red Bull, and Mateschitz decide enough is enough?

Can they afford to let personal feelings cloud Rangnick’s judgement and have an impact on their brand? Time will tell.

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