RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita could join Liverpool as early as the January transfer window, according to a leading Bundesliga expert. The Guinea international is due to move to Anfield next summer after the Reds agreed to pay £48m (€52.5m) to acquire the player during the summer.
The 22-year-old played a key role in Leipzig providing one of the stories of the season during the 2016-17 campaign as the club finished second in the Bundesliga in their first season in the German top flight. They qualified for the Champions League as a result, a competition they will grace for the first time next week.
Though Keita will not officially join Liverpool until next year he was one of a number of players lured away from the Red Bull Arena, with Oliver Burke and Davie Selke also leaving on a permanent basis. But according to German football expert Lee Price, author of The Bundesliga Blueprint, Liverpool could yet be able to call upon Keita mid-way through the campaign.
"As I revealed back in June, Keita had agreed terms with Liverpool long ago, and it was just Leipzig playing hard ball," he told The Sun. "Cornered by his release clause of £48m kicking in next summer, the German club always knew that they'd have to come to an agreement this summer to maximise their income, hence charging Liverpool a premium to do the deal now.
"This makes sense for all parties – unless Keita picks up an injury. There is a chance, depending on Leipzig's domestic and Champions League progress, that Liverpool could pay a further premium to capture the midfielder in January. The deal also suits the Reds, as it safeguards them against Emre Can's expiring contract – with the German expected to complete a move to Juventus at the end of the season."
One potential stumbling block in any early deal for Keita is Leipzeig's participation in Europe. Last season's Bundesliga runners-up were drawn against Monaco, Porto and Besiktas in Group G of the Champions League and will rely on Keita to help them reach the knock-out stage. However, should he feature in the preliminary stage he would be ineligible for Liverpool in the competition if he moved to England later this season.
Liverpool made just four signings during the summer, with Mohamed Salah, Dominic Solanke, Andrew Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the new faces to arrive on Merseyside. The central narrative of the summer surrounded Philippe Coutinho's attempts to join Barcelona, a saga that is expected to re-emerge in January. The Brazil international is still keen on a move to the Nou Camp.