Red Bull Leipzig's hopes of keeping Naby Keita from joining Liverpool have suffered another setback after the club's sporting director clumsily attempted to clarify comments suggesting the midfielder had been badly advised over his career by "a whole village in Guinea". The 22-year-old remains heavily linked with the Reds and though the Bundesliga club do not want to sell their prized asset they must now be consigned to his departure.
Rangnick's initial statement had provoked criticism from former Guinea captain Kamil Zayatte, who labelled the comments as 'racist', after he lambasted the player's advisers who he blamed for convincing the youngster to move to Anfield. The 59-year-old club chief expects he and teammate Emil Fosberg to play for Leipzig next season, but those hopes appear to be dwindling by the day.
"There should be someone who points them into the right direction," said Rangnick, according to The Guardian, on Wednesday (26 July). "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."
But having been handed the opportunity to explain the outburst, Rangnick has likely only inflamed relations with Keita and his representatives by suggesting there is a "clan" persuading him to move to Liverpool this summer.
"I know Naby from the very first day when he came to Salzburg," he said on Thursday, according to The Guardian. "We therefore have a very close relationship, also to his adviser. We are in a trusting exchange. That is exactly what I said in my lecture in Bochum.
"Behind many players with an African background, and I've met a lot of them, there is a clan and sometimes a whole village, that lives from the help of one football player. And it's the case that there are people behind Naby, that demand his transfer. Believe me, my knowledge in geography are good enough, to differentiate between Guinea and Africa."
Though Keita was already expected to join Liverpool in the weeks prior to the end of the summer transfer window on 31 August, these latest inopportune remarks are likely to only accelerate his move to the Premier League.
Bild understand that the German club have begun making provisions for Keita's departure in the wake of Liverpool making a third bid of £77m for the player, having previously failed with offers of £57m and £66m. Rangnick himself is leading the search for a replacement, with scouts having been charged with finding the ideal candidate.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is calm over the lack of signings made by the club this summer, though just three new players have arrived in the off-season. Dominic Solanke, Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson have joined from Chelsea, Roma and Hull City respectively and it remains to be seen whether further additions will be made.