Naby Keita clause only reason for Liverpool move - RB Leipzig CEO
RB Leipzig would not have allowed Naby Keita a transfer to Liverpool had there been no release clause in his contract, the club's CEO has told kicker.
Liverpool announced in August that they had agreed a deal to sign Keita, 22, next summer after having triggered a reported €55 million clause that only becomes active at the end of the current season, plus an additional fee to persuade Leipzig to sanction the deal early.
Keita had only joined Leipzig from sister club Red Bull Salzburg in 2016 and Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said the Bundesliga side had not expected the Guinea midfielder to draw such a substantial bid when the terms of his contract were agreed.
"We would have never given Naby Keita away if it had not been for the release clause," Mintzlaff said. "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."
Mintzlaff also expressed hope that sporting director Ralf Rangnick, whose contract expires in just under two years, will stay on at Leipzig, who were surprise runners-up in their first ever Bundesliga campaign last season.
"I am convinced: Ralf Rangnick will stay with us beyond 2019," Mintzlaff said. "He's the sporting engine, the one who has given us the philosophy. He has shaped the club like no one else, and he has managed to form a squad which stands for sustainability."
Leipzig are well placed to continue last season's success, having moved into third place in the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 3-2 win over leaders Borussia Dortmund, inflicting the hosts' first top-flight defeat at the Westfalenstadion in 41 games.
The match -- which saw the impressive Keita substituted after 45 minutes as the result of an early booking to avoid risking another red card -- underlined the quality of Leipzig's squad.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given Dortmund the early lead but goals from Marcel Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen put Leipzig ahead by the 25th minute and Jean-Kevin Augustin's penalty shortly after the break extended their advantage.
Aubameyang pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 64 minutes, moving top of the Bundesliga scoring charts with his 10th goal in eight games, but the hosts could not find an equaliser and Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl said RB had "punished" every mistake.
"Leipzig were that little bit faster with the second balls," Weigl said. "We might have had more possession, but most of it was in our own half. We often had to play the pass to [goalkeeper] Roman Burki. Leipzig, on the other hand, were more dangerous when they had possession of the ball."
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.