RB Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff has admitted Liverpool’s push to sign Naby Keita for above his release clause caught them by surprise.
The Reds pursued the Guinea midfielder throughout the summer, eventually landing a deal with the Bundesliga outfit at the end of August.
As Liverpool made persistent advances for Keita, both Mintzlaff and Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick continually stressed that the 22-year-old would not be sold.
But eventually accepting a deal that included a £7 million premium on his £48 million release clause, Leipzig reneged on their stance, with Keita to join Jurgen Klopp‘s squad in 2018.
The clause was set to become active next summer, with Liverpool’s swift advances presenting an offer Mintzlaff admitted Leipzig could not refuse.
“We would have never given Naby Keita away if it had not been for the release clause,” he told kicker.
“When we agreed on the clause, we did not presume that only after a few months there’d be a club willing to pay significantly more.”
There are faint hopes that Leipzig will agree to an early release for Keita, with Leipzig looking unlikely to progress beyond the group stage in the Champions League.
They currently sit fourth in Group G, with Besiktas top with six points, Porto in second with three and AS Monaco above Leipzig on goal difference, having both taken one point so far.
Furthermore, Keita’s performances have not yet met the level set last season, with suggestions the former Red Bull Salzburg midfielder has mentally checked out in Germany.
He has made seven appearances for the club so far, scoring twice and assisting once, picking up four yellow cards and a red, resulting a three-match ban in mid-September.
Keita was also dismissed in Guinea’s recent 4-1 loss to Tunisia, with his aggressive approach following on from a training-ground altercation with Leipzig’s Diego Demme during pre-season.
Mintzlaff’s testimony highlights an improvement in Liverpool’s transfer negotiations, avoiding the prospect of contending with a host of top clubs around Europe when Keita’s clause became active.