Naby Keita
Naby Keita looks likely to leave RB Leipzig during the summer of 2018 Getty Images

Sporting director Ralf Rangnick has reiterated in no uncertain terms that Naby Keita will play for RB Leipzig this season, although may also have fuelled growing speculation that the noted Liverpool target is primed to depart in 2018.

Keita's current contract with the Bundesliga runners-up contains a €50m (£44.8m, $59.2m) release clause that becomes active from next summer and German publication Sport Bild report that Leipzig initially hoped to remove it by successfully negotiating a new deal lasting until 2020.

However, Rangnick does not sound hopeful that such an agreement will be struck anytime soon.

"I am not currently assuming that we will be able to extend his contract prematurely," he said.

Rangnick added: "I can assure you that Naby is playing with us this season. All other scenarios also depend on how we do this season, how Naby plays himself and so on."

Along with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, Keita emerged as one of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's key summer transfer targets after shining during his maiden season at Leipzig following a move from sister club Red Bull Salzburg.

The Guinea international made 32 total appearances across all competitions and played an instrumental role in helping Ralph Hasenhuttl's side to finish second behind by Bayern Munich in their first ever season in the German top-flight.

Liverpool are said to have failed with two club-record offers for Keita worth £57m and £66m and speculation regarding a £77m third bid later gave way to reports that their pursuit would end unless Leipzig altered their hardline stance over not selling any key players ahead of their maiden foray into the Champions League.

Keita's awful tackle on teammate Diego Demme that caused a premature end to a training session last month was presented in some quarters as a sign of his ongoing frustration, although Leipzig were quick to play down the incident.

Speaking after his team's 1-0 defeat to Sevilla at the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament in London on Saturday (29 July), Hasenhuttl made it abundantly clear that no offers for Keita would be entertained.

"The chance [of him leaving] is null," he said. "At the beginning of the transfer period we said we would start with the same team and of the main players we had last year no-one will go. That would be our answer now also. For us, everyone can see how important Naby Keita is for our game."

Liverpool will be considered as the overwhelming favourites to finally sign Keita if and when that aforementioned buyout clause comes into play, although recent reports from Italy suggest that both Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in the 22-year-old.