RB Leipzig would not have agreed to sell Naby Keita to Liverpool if the midfielder did not have a release clause in his contract, according to club chief Oliver Mintzlaff.

Keita was the subject of a drawn-out and much publicised pursuit from Jurgen Klopp's side, who failed to tempt Leipzig into selling their prized asset this summer but managed to strike a deal that will see the 22-year-old arrive at Anfield next season.

Leipzig rejected a bids believed to be worth between £60m and £70m (€67.3m and €78.5m) for Keita during the summer, but Liverpool managed take advantage of the £48m release clause in the Guinea international's contract, which was due to activate in the summer of 2018, and paid a small premium in order to capture the all-action midfielder.

Keita made his desire to join Liverpool abundantly clear but Leipzig had no interest in parting with their prized asset as they were about head into their inaugural Champions League campaign. In the end they were left with little choice but to sell, and Mintzlaff was to left to rue the decision to insert an escape clause into the former Horoya youth graduate's contract.

"We would have never given Naby Keita away if it had not been for the release clause," Mintzlaff told Kicker magazine, relayed by the Liverpool Echo.

"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."

Keita's future lies away from Leipzig but he will almost certainly start their Champions League group stage against Porto on Tuesday (17 October) Ralph Hassenhuttl's men currently lie bottom of Group G after two matches but could find themselves top if they beat the Portuguese giants and Monaco secure victory over Besiktas.

Keita's future club Liverpool are also in Champions League action on Tuesday and could take control of their group if they manage to beat Maribor at the Ljudski vrt. Klopp's side are expected to be too much for the Slovenian champions but the former Borussia Dortmund boss is not planning to ring the changes as his side look to improve their disappointing run of form that has seen them win just one in eight.

Naby Keita
Keita will wear Liverpool colours next season. Getty Images