Liverpool ramp up attempts to persuade RB Leipzig into January transfer for Naby Keïta

Liverpool ramp up attempts to persuade RB Leipzig into January transfer for Naby Keïta

Liverpool have opened official negotiations with RB Leipzig as they look to fast-track the arrival of midfielder Naby Keïta to Anfield following the departure of playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

Charlie Malam

Liverpool are looking to bring forward the arrival of Naby Keïta from RB Leipzig with the two clubs now officially in contact as the Premier League side seek to secure a January deal.

The Reds already have an agreement in place with Keïta's Bundesliga employers after agreeing a transfer in the region of £57 million for the Guinean midfielder to move to Merseyside in July 2018.

But Philippe Coutinho's recent £142 million departure earlier this month has accelerated the need for Jürgen Klopp to strengthen his squad, with Keïta a capable creative presence from deep and the kind that they lack in Coutinho's absence.

They have targeted AS Monaco's Thomas Lemar, an attacker also attracting heavy interest from Arsenal, but the Ligue 1 outfit are unlikely to sanction a sale mid-way through the campaign and so Liverpool will likely revisit a potential deal in the summer.

As an alternative they have opened negotiations to sign 22-year-old Keïta six months early and are prepared to pay an added premium on top of the sum they have committed to pay for him in the summer.

The player is also reportedly keen to move to Liverpool now with his performance levels having dropped from the standard which established him as one of the best players in Germany last term.

Leipzig were initially reluctant to lose a key player but according to some reports, the player's apparent lack of enthusiasm and the extra money involved means they are warming to the idea. They have yet to reject Liverpool's advances in their talks.

Early Keïta deal an increasingly likely possibility?

Conflicting stories indicate that the Saxony outfit remain keen to keep Keïta on board to push for Champions League qualification and also subsequently compete in the Europa League - where they face Napoli in the last 32.

Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is reported to have said there remains "no reason" for the club to sell Keïta early, and it is thought suggestions they have quoted Liverpool a £13 million fee to sign the African box-to-box midfielder immediately are misplaced.

But it is certainly progress that Leipzig are engaging in talks, despite their public stance that Keïta will not be sold - a standpoint similar to Liverpool's before they relented and sold Coutinho.

The Merseyside club are cautious not to damage relations with Leipzig and will not look to force an early move if sporting director Ralf Rangnick rejects their advances, with Liverpool's director Michael Edwards to speak to the German directly.

While Keïta's early arrival would allow him extra time to bed in although he is ineligible to play in Europe having featured for Leipzig in the Champions League group stages this season.

But Liverpool have 18 league games left to play, starting with a clash with leaders Manchester City this Sunday, and will hope for a run to the late stages of the FA Cup - with Keïta able to play his part in both competitions.

The deal agreed between the clubs means that Leipzig receive a higher fee if they finish higher in the Bundesliga table, with Champions League qualification earning them as much as £66 million.

Finishing outside of the top four - they are currently fifth but just two points off second-placed Schalke - would mean they receive approximately £57 million.

That means Liverpool are likely to have to pay £66 million, and potentially more, in order to secure an early transfer if Leipzig prove receptive in talks.