LONDON — RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl says there is “zero” chance that Naby Keita will be sold to Liverpool this transfer window – but hinted that the club’s stance could change next summer.
Leipzig have always maintained that their most prized player isn’t for sale this summer, and sources have told ESPN FC that Liverpool have cooled their interest in the midfielder after having two bids rejected.
Asked after Leipzig’s 1-0 loss to Sevilla at the Emirates Cup on Saturday whether there was still a chance the club’s stance could soften, Hasenhuttl said: “The chance is zero. It’s 100 percent clear that Naby will play this year at Leipzig.
“At the beginning of the transfer window we said we’ll start with the same team, and with all the main players we had last year and that no one will go. That will be our answer now also.
“For us, everyone can see how important Naby Keita is to our game, Emil Forsberg also. They’re the two most important players on our team. I’m 100 percent sure that they will be this year with Leipzig.”
Hasenhuttl insisted he didn’t have a problem with Liverpool’s persistent pursuit, however, saying “that is football business.” And he admitted that the door could open for a transfer if Liverpool return next year.
“Until next summer we keep it closed. Then we’ll have a look,” he said.
Keita was one of the team’s top players as Leipzig stunned the Bundesliga by finishing second behind Bayern Munich, qualifying for the Champion League for the first time. Hasenhuttl admitted that the lure of Champions League football has made it easier to keep the team intact — and said his young team will benefit from playing in the competition together.
“For all the players it’s very important to stay another year with this team. Because next year we play in the Champions League for the first year and it’s a new situation for every one of us,” he said.
“They are all very young players, and I think for them it’s very important to play the first year in the Champions League with a team where they know the automatism, where they know how they have to play. We will learn this year again very much, I think.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.